By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
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Image Credit: Saft Batteries (via Fast Company Magazine)
March 30, 2013
Looks like the Marines may be getting themselves a new mobile military laser weapon system to shoot those enemy UAS/UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Systems/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), i.e., drones, out of the sky. Wired Magazine reports that this is at the benevolent behest of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), from whence many good and interesting things come. While the laser weapon system's name, Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy on-the-Move (GBADDEM), perhaps needs a little work (specifically some shortening), it's frankly about time that someone got on this.
In the interest of full disclosure, DefenseReview (DR) is a proponent of infantry and Air Force laser weapons in general. We're also proponents of anti-missile laser systems to accompany and augment missile defense systems (MDS) like Iron Dome, speifically. At or around the same time we were considering lasers' anti-missile capabilities and possibilities, it occurred to us that lasers are an excellent solution for dealing with manned enemy aircraft (manned aircraft) and drones. So, we're totally behind ONR's effort.
According to Wired, if it makes it all the way through development, GBADDEM will be Humvee-type truck-based. The laser cannon will generate a minimum optical output power of 25 kilowatts (kw), a 50kw laser is the goal. Target weight for the cannon itself is less than 2,500 lbs. The challenge? Power versus system weight. Here's Wired's take on it:
The hard part is going to be generating the power necessary for the laser beam either from a truck or portable within it. The generators on board ships are massive things that can divert enough power to a sub-100 kilowatt laser without jeopardizing propulsion. It’s unclear from the outline the Office of Naval Research provides just how a generator capable of generating 25 kilowatts worth of pew-pew-pew for two minutes and “followed by a 20 minute recharge to 80% of total capacity (power and thermal)” (!) is going to either fit in a Humvee or, more problematically, draw from the truck’s electrical systems. Then there’s the problem of cooling the thing down so it’s safe to drive. (Also, be careful where you point that thing.)
Defense Review assumes multi-spectrum laser weapon systems (including both infrared (IR) and visible laser weapons) will be developed.
This isn't the first article Wired's done on this subject. Back in October 2012, they published a piece titled Navy Lasers’ First Target: Enemy Drones which covered anti-drone laser systems for ship defense. Then, in March 2013, they published a piece on the Navy's 2013 laser push titled Navy Will Make 2013 Its Year of the Laser Gun. So, they've been on this thing pretty heavy.
DR recommends you read the various Wired articles to get the full picture.
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