Daily Management Review

Arms Race: New Gen Laser Beam


US defense company Lockheed Martin held trials of new combat laser system Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) in 3 March, says Independent.

The system is capable to hit a car's engine from a distance of more than 1.6 kilometers. Today it is one of the most powerful and technically advanced combat systems of this type, but active development in this area are carried out in different countries of the world.
In 2013, the US Army conducted a test of mobile high-energy laser demonstrator HEL MD (High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator) on Missile Range White Sands of New Mexico. Low-power laser of the 10-15 kW installed on a truck knocked down several types of rockets, mortars and artillery shells on the middle portion of the flight path. HEL MD was also proved effective against optoelectronic sensors for unmanned aerial vehicles.
On the basis of this technology, American engineers have begun to design more powerful installation. The most successful developments in the field of laser weapons are owned by Lockheed Martin. The current system of Advanced Test High Energy Asset capacity of 30 kW is created on the basis of spectral beam combining technology: multiple laser modules form a powerful beam at a particular point, where it reached the maximum temperature.
Although ATHENA too cumbersome for land transport (except radiating elements for its operation there are high capacity batteries needed), it can be used as a stationary or be mounted on warships. In the near future, experts expect Lockheed Martin to reduce the size of the laser and batteries. For this purpose have already been developed technologies that are now being tested. It is expected that the improved system based on the ATHENA would also be placed on combat aircraft and land vehicles.
Meanwhile, representatives of the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) put an experimental laser weapon LaWS on a troop transport ship USS Ponce United States in the Persian Gulf. The new system has become the part of a research program aimed at creating Direct Energy Weapon. The main targets will be LaWS drones, helicopters and patrol boats. The weapon of 30 kW capacity has a range of about 1.5 km, so that it is comparable in potential to ATHENA by Lockheed Martin.
The advantage of setting LaWS that it can incapacitate a large number of targets without reloading ammunition. The main thing that there must be an adequate supply of energy and the smooth operation of the cooling system. The system is capable of hitting targets in the sky and on the water in bad weather conditions and can operate in different modes, for example, dazzle a target or apply, if necessary, physical damage. The cost of a single shot from the laser gun is only $ 0.59, and the energy beam is not visible to the naked eye.
United States, without a doubt, is a leader in the development of laser weapons, but Western Europe, Israel and China are working on similar projects too. For instance, similar to the US power laser system was developed in Germany and it appeared much earlier.
German defense company Rheinmetall was a creator of a plant with a capacity of 50 kW, designed for use in air defense artillery units and other combat vehicles. Its high-energy lasers combined several modules, which are mounted on the turret Oerlikon Revolver Gun, equipped with additional power modules.
At the heart of the installation is Beam Superimposing Technology (BST), which combines two laser beams into one (30 kW + 20 kW). This allows to unleash great destructive power. Tests have shown that the laser is effective even in bad weather. It can run in the rain, snow, and even under the bright sun. The immediate aim of Rheinmetall is to create laser gun of 100 kW.
UK Ministry of Defence began to sponsor a program worth £ 30 million to develop a new generation of combat lasers from April 2015.  A military laboratory of science and technology (DSTL) will be managing the project. It is planned to create several systems of laser weapons that can be combined into a single complex.
French company Nexter and Thales provides long-term program to create a beam weapons. In the first stage solid-state laser system 10 kW must disable small targets at ranges of up to 5 km. On the second - 100-150 kW laser power is designed to hit the enemy missiles and ships at a distance of 5-10 km. By 2020, it is expected to create 300-kilowatt installation and ensure its energy supply ships, so that they can perform shock and defensive missions at sea using laser weapons within