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Laser energy weapon

  • Published
    13th Jul, 2022
Context

Lockheed Martin has delivered a LANCE system to the Air Force Research Laboratory of the US Air Force for operational testing.

About

LANCE system:

  • The LANCE system is one-sixth the size of the other laser energy systems being developed by the company.
  • LANCE is part of the US Air Force’s efforts to equip fighter jets with compact laser weapons capable of taking down anti-aircraft missiles.
  • The US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $26.3 million contract for the design, development and production of a high power fiber laser in 2017.
  • That contract was part of AFRL’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program, which is divided into three efforts.
    • The first includes the development of a beam control system to direct the laser onto the target dubbed SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE).
    • The second encompasses the development of a pod mounted on the tactical fighter jet, which will power and cool the laser,
    • the third is the actual LANCE weapon

Significance

  • The development is significant as it is an acknowledgement that efforts to reduce the size of the laser energy weapon have been successful, and it is now ready to be tested after being mounted on an aircraft.
  • The fact that the size of the energy weapon has been reduced to that of a pod which can be mounted on a fighter aircraft, or any aircraft for that matter, is an important development.

Implications of LANCE in future battlefields:

  • While LANCE has been reduced in size for operational use on aircraft, the system can definitely be put to use on a variety of platforms on land and at sea.
  • At present, LANCE has been manufactured for a defensive role.
  • However, this research could be furthered to develop an offensive weapon, one that could not only shoot down aircraft and drones, but also be mounted atop ground- and sea-based mobile platforms for offensive roles.

Which countries are actively pursuing development of laser energy weapons?

  • Apart from the US, several other countries have robust laser energy weapon development programmes. This includes China, Russia, Israel, Germany, France and India.
  • Israel recently tested its laser weapon to shoot down a drone from the ground.
  • Russia recently claimed to have tested a laser weapon — Zadira — in Ukraine.
  • India is developing a directed energy weapon named DURGA II, which stands for Directed Unrestricted Ray-Gun Array. It is said to be a light energy weapon of 100 kilowatt capacity.

DURGA II:

  • The classified project, DURGA II, is a 100-kilowatt lightweight Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) that will soon be in the hands of the Indian Army.
  • This weapon system is set to be integrated with sea, air and land-based platforms as well.
  • DEW is a weapon that destroys damages or incapacitates its target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves or particle beams.
  • The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) had successfully tested truck-mounted LASER Weapon Systems (LaWS) in 2018 to hit a target located 250 m away.
    • DRDO in the next step is testing a high-powered truck mounted laser of 2kw against a target located at a distance of 1 km.
  • On Independence Day 2021, DRDO deployed its vehicle mounted anti-drone system with a 10 kw LaWS to engage aerial targets up to 2.5 km.
    • A second variant is a tripod-mounted LaWS with power of 2 kw and a maximum range of 1 km.
  • Directionally Unrestricted Ray-Gun Array (DURGA II), will see the Indian Army receive a 100-kilowatt, lightweight LaWS.
    • The program is slated to be integrated with land, sea and air-based platforms and is currently reportedly in the concept stage.
    • In addition, DRDO is also reportedly working on IR dazzlers to take on enemy aircraft and helicopters at 10 km and 25-kw LaWs to destroy missiles during their terminal phase at range of 5 to 7 km.

 

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