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The US Air Force will shortly begin testing a laser that will be mounted on an F-15, an official said on Monday.

“We have got tests starting this summer and the flight tests next summer,” Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the US Air Force for science, technology and engineering, told reporters.

“There are still some technical challenges that we have to overcome, mainly size, weight, power.”

The Pentagon last year awarded a $26 million contract to Lockheed Martin for a laser program called SHiELD (Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator).

The overall aim is to put a laser system on aircraft with an output of about 50 kw to test their ability against unmanned aircraft and missiles.

Recently, Qinetiq discussed the schedule for the testing of ‘Dragonfire’ a new British laser directed energy weapon.

The first project to be undertaken at the new Dragonworks laser test facility will be the assembly and testing of the laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) currently in development by the UK’s Dragonfire consortium.

Components will arrive in early 2018, when QinetiQ will begin building the weapon’s laser source in the purpose-built clean room. Over the following months, the laser source will undergo a process of evaluation and adjustment before being integrated with Leonardo’s beam director.

The project will culminate in operation at full-power under test conditions inside the facility in summer 2018, before it is transported to MOD Shoeburyness for long-range outdoor trials later in the year.

Data collected using the Reflective Hazard Assessment Tool will inform the safety case for these and future trials, ensuring the reflectivity of targets is fully understood and any risk mitigated accordingly.

Peter Cooper, the Project Technical Authority in Dstl, which manages the Dragonfire contract on behalf of the UK MOD, said regarding the new test facility:

“This facility is a key step in delivering the Dragonfire project and reflects the continuing UK MOD investment, supported and enabled by industry funding, amounting to tens of millions of pounds in UK industrial skills and capabilities and underpinning UK prosperity.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Good us and the ame4icans will both have top end aircraft hopefully the dragonfire will pave way for exporting and more high tech british planes

  2. If LDEW’s can be used against missiles and unmanned aircraft then surely they can be used against men on the ground as well. Maybe I’m wrong I don’t know…

    • depends how airworthy they can make it without compromising anything else it will most likely be a last resort type defence ie when an missile is right up it’s arse

      • Yes, that’s what it seems. Good picture all the same, even if dogfights are supposedly to be a bit rare these days.

  3. Waste of money will be useless against anything but small drones or lazing personnel on the ground . By the time an incoming missile has been tracked and engaged the supersonic debris will likely shred the aircraft anyway. The power required for an uninterrupted beam at range to defeat a missile is not possible now, rain cloud and dust will see to that

    • Every weapon system started off as unreliable….
      If nothing else directed energy weapons will disrupt the missile sensors….

      • Qineti1 links “404 not found”, did find this for a 50Kw for land and sea:

        “According to the consortium the weapon – which is being optimised for use on land and at sea – will ultimately be used for short-range air defence, close-in protection for naval vessels, counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and protecting friendly forces from mortar and artillery attack.”

        the 40Kw was tested at over 2,000 metres.

  4. A laser of 50KW in continuous wave mode should be able to burn through 1mm of aluminium alloy at 1km. In pulse mode it will have different effects on the alloy by causing thermal shock to the alloy. By oscillating the laser over the target you should be able to disrupt the seeker RF or Optical/IR as well as damage the body of the target. The nose cones of most missiles are made from a composite material, by placing the laser on this material it can cause to go opaque or burn through to the seeker head causing more damage.
    The problem at the moment will be the relatively short range due to the available power that the aircraft can generate, hence why laser such as Dragonfire is earmarked for land sites or ships. There will be dispersion of the laser spot will be heavily affected by atmospherics which must be taken into account by complex lenses – read expensive.
    I pretty certain there was a clause in the Geneva convention regarding using lasers to intentionally blind people, although I can’t locate it?

  5. If power is an issue, perhaps the energy weapons will need to be mounted on larger planes- passenger plane/cargo plane sized.

    At the same time, they now have space to mount multiple weapons- a return to world war 2 bombers with guns everywhere, except this time with 21st century technology and computer controlled.

    If they work, it’s possible the larger plane could become a defence escort for fighter jets, instead of the other way around as it normally is. The large plane just flies straight ahead, any enemy missile getting to a few km gets shot down. Any enemy plane attempting to shoot it down with guns getting within a few km also gets shot down.

    Imagine this- a flight with , 4 large defense planes, laser armed, form a perimeter around many fighter planes, which loaded with weapons. Lasers shoot everything down.

    Sure, it’s not reality. But it’s a possibility. (and yes, I’m aware there will be many limiting factors, like clouds, atmospheric moisture, missile saturation attacks, exploding shrapnel missiles, nukes etc)

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