In a recent series of tests at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, Calif., a trailer-mounted laser was able to knock five unmanned aircraft out of the sky.
The demo, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, was a test of the Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX), an experimental system developed by Boeing Directed Energy Systems. According to a company news release, the test showed the ability to take down a hostile unmanned aircraft with a “relatively low laser power” weapon. According to AFRL, MATRIX uses a two and a half kilowatt-class high energy laser.
While ballistic missile defense may get all of the press, some homeland-security experts worry about a more low-tech threat: drone technology. Bill Baker, chief scientist of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, said in a statement that the shootdowns “validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland.”
It’s not clear, exactly, how the lasers shot down the drones: Whether they disrupted the aircraft controls, or burned a big hole in them. (An AFRL news release said the drones were “acquired, tracked and negated at significant ranges” but offered few additional details.)
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Tags: Air Force, Boeing, Drones, Laser, Military, Science, Technology, U.S., UAVs, Weapons