We've all seen laser beams that can instantly vaporise enemy vehicles, planes and installations. So far, it's been in films, but that is now poised to become reality. The US Army and aircraft manufacturer Boeing is presently testing a vehicle-mounted laser weapon that shoot down enemy planes as well as help soldiers clear their path of dangerous roadside bombs and unexploded artillery shells.
Defence manufacturer Boeing is developing a laser pod that can be mounted on its Avenger Agile Multi-Role Weapon System. The one-kilowatt, solid-state laser would be used to destroy explosives and possibly shoot down enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The laser melts away the explosives and destroys the bomb or unexploded ordnance at a safe distance without setting it off, to restrict damage and keep troops and people safe. Boeing already uses its 20 year old Avenger system as the foundation for its Agile Multi-Role Weapon System, which is designed to allow US forces to use a variety of rockets, guided missiles and guns to tackle ground and air threats.
The army and Boeing have been testing these variants in Iraq, where troops said they wanted a weapon that could be used to disable roadside bombs. Boeing engineers hope that the laser pod can also be used to swat small enemy UAVs out of the sky. The plan is to deploy early versions by 2008. Boeing says the laser still has to be tested and improved.
The key area it wants to test and develop is shoot-on-the-move capabilities, to hit UAVs. This is presently a problem because the laser pod has to be stable, so the advanced optics can be used to generate a beam powerful enough to disable UAVs.
For ground use, the laser system tests begin at Redstone on the first of September. Once approved, the system will be produced and integrated at Boeing's Huntsville JetPlex facility.