What’s this I hear about you shopping in your local army/navy store for a helmet? Are you getting wee skid marks in your tighty-whities about the possibilities of a drone invasion? Hundreds of drones bearing decals for Iran and ISIS carrying dirty plutonium bombs over the crowded skies of Nebraska and Oklahoma?
Well, you can stop your worrying. We’ve got the Military Industrial Complex to protect us. Yes. You can sleep easier knowing Boeing is building a laser cannon drone destroyer. This new adaptable weapon can be used on sea and land. The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) is a high-energy super laser, which is usually rack-mounted on top of a big truck or heavy-track armored vehicle. During tests last year, the HEL MD was successfully used to blast scores of UAV drones and 60mm mortars out of the Florida sky, according a Boeing P.R. release on Thursday September 4, 2014.
By using a 10-kilowatt laser, which carries a far less powerful punch, military scientists were able to “successfully engage” more than 150 targets at Eglin Air Force Base, a Department of Defense weapons testing facility on the Florida Panhandle, according to Yahoo News. Utilizing the kind of cloudy, windy, rain bound weather that is necessary to bring air force and navy observers in, especially vis-a-vis getting help for the US army’s budget.
In lay terms, the laser concentrates a focused beam of light and aims it at a moving target, just like movies like Goldfinger showed more than 50 years ago, when it all seemed like a sci-fi dream. With simple, cheap lithium ion batteries able to quickly charge up a 60kW generator, the Army can keep the fuel tank and batteries full, and, theoretically, ought to be able to shoot down any number of attacking threats indefinitely. As light equals heat, the beam focuses on a target that explodes or crashes. Having been occupied with this next generation weapons project more than ten years, scientists at Boeing and the Army have won themselves a US$36m contract for the project.
Using the weapon in tandem with the Sand Cat, a composite armored vehicle designed by the armored-car manufacturers of the Israeli firm Plasan, which, instead of using the old slow-moving vehicles that weigh 6 to 8 tons, has ceramic body parts that mean both stability and mobility, especially in a desert warfare situation.
Attached to the Sandcat, the Boeing system uses both an old-school telescope and the kind of wide-angle/fish-eyed infrared-based, view-camera able to classify, locate and even designate targets if officers are hurt. What really surprises is that clever Boeing techies have designed their system for use by a driver and an operator working in tandem with a laptop and an Xbox controller. Putting it on a truck makes the system mobile, and clearly far more useful in chaotic battle situations. Better yet, on a future battlefield polluted by poison gas, nerve agents or the remnants of a dirty bomb explosion, the HEL MD could be run from a remote underground bunker situation.
Working with a much more powerful laser cannon which is due for delivery by early 2017, the 60 kilowatt ‘bolts’ which are fired will eviscerate any trace of incoming rockets, artillery mortar strikes, and UAV drones which might enter the HEL MD’s view center.
So, umm, don’t worry about Drone warfare. Uncle Sugar promises to keep you safe!