Anti-aircraft laser successfully shoots down UAVs

July 19, 2010
Farnborough, England--The US Navy has successfully destroyed four unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) targets with a laser ...

Farnborough, England--The US Navy has for the first time in a maritime environment successfully destroyed four unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) targets with a laser, according to news reports from the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, England. The series of tests was conducted earlier this year at the US Navy test range on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California with defense contractor Raytheon (Tucson, AZ). The company said the solid-state fiber laser system can be used against UAVs, mortar, rockets and small surface ships.

According to laser manufacturer IPG Photonics (Oxford, MA) the fiber laser system consisted of six 5.5-kW IPG fiber lasers, generating over 30 kW through a common beam director.

In an interview with BBC News, Raytheon Missile Systems' vice president, Mike Booen, said that the tests were a big step forward for laser technology. "We've tied this into Phalanx, the US Navy's anti-missile defence system that links a multiple barrelled 20mm Gatling gun to a radar guidance mechanism. This system is already installed in many ships, both in the US and other NATO nations, such as the Royal Navy."

Although Raytheon would not give details of the height, speed and range of the UAVs, saying that data is "sensitive", the company did say that the Navy wanted tests to be as realistic as possible, suggesting that the aircraft were behaving in the way military planners would expect them to.

"This is the first time a UAV threat has been targeted and neutralised in a marine environment," said Mr Booen."On a ship, the laser can be mounted inside a ship and the beam fed up through fibre cables."

Apparently, the firm is also working on a sister land based system that can be used to target mortar and rocket rounds." On land, it could be mounted in trailers so it has applications across the globe," said Mr Booen.

For more information go to BBC News

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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