labels: Boeing, News reports, UAV
Boeing truck-mounted laser system downs UAV news
27 January 2009

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which has emerged as a most potent battlefield technology in recent times, primarily because of its lack of visibility, may not retain its aura of invincibility for long with Boeing reporting successful testing of technology capable of tracking and shooting down these omnipresent birds.

Aerospace and defence giant Boeing has reported that a prototype truck-mounted laser has shot down a UAV at a missile range in New Mexico. A UAVs relatively smaller size makes it comparatively more difficult to shoot down.

UAVs come in all shapes and sizes from hand-launched Ravens to a small airliner-sized Global Hawk.

Boeing's Laser Avenger is an infrared laser designed to shoot down the smaller variety of UAV, which are most difficult for conventional air-defence weapons to target. It is supplied with power levels somewhere in the tens of kilowatts range and is mounted on a Humvee.

In the latest exercise the Avenger tracked three small UAVs, the exact model of which was not revealed, and shot one of them down. The system tracks an object and waits until the target is close enough for it to cause burning with a single blast.

Since its first exercise in 2007, when it blew up a stationary improvised bomb, the power of its laser has doubled.

Boeing spokesman, Marc Selinger, refused to reveal the distance at which the feat was achieved, saying it was "an operationally relevant range". The feat is all the more important, he said, because the tracking was achieved against the complex, cluttered visual background of the New Mexico mountains and desert.

The Laser Avenger is a modified version of an existing US Army air defence system that uses two Stinger missile launchers and a heavy machine gun, with one missile converted for use as a laser and target tracker. "If funded by the Pentagon, the Laser Avenger could be available within a year," said Selinger.

Boeing has so far funded the project itself.

Surface to air missiles find it difficult to lock onto small, light, UAVs which are sometimes made from plastics.

Experts point out that multiple firing of lasers would also be cheaper than a volley of missiles, and can continue as long as power is supplied.

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Boeing truck-mounted laser system downs UAV