Special Operations Command plans to mount a laser weapon on an Apache helicopter for testing this summer, according to a report on the joint SOCOM-Army project from National Defense Magazine.
Colonel John Vannoy said at a conference in Florida that the laser could be used to destroy or damage vehicles or generators. Additionally, at $1 per shot it would be cheaper than traditional weaponry. There are still a lot more variables that need to be dealt with: the vibrations on the wing of the Apache could affect the steering of the laser, while environmental changes including dust could change the strength of the beam.
The test will determine the feasibility of the project, which will be a joint endeavor between SOCOM, the Army’s Apache office, and Raytheon. The aircraft manufacturer will be contracted to install the podded laser on the helicopter.
Vannoy cautioned people against expecting “a Star Wars like effect,” saying that the laser is still in very early stages. The MH-60 Black Hawk aircraft is also being considered as a platform for a directed energy weapon.
At the same time, the Program Executive Office for Rotary Wing is working closely with the fixed-wing command offices to determine whether the same technology might be appropriate for fixed-wing aircraft. Fixed Wing is already going ahead with a directed energy weapon designed for the AC-130 Ghostrider gunship, with a target date of 2020.
The fixed wing division is working on a laser with 60 to 150 kilowatts of power, but the requirement for a rotary-wing weapon may be different due to the size of the aircraft.
The U.S. Army established a target date of 2023 for laser weapons earlier this year. The Air Force already uses lasers as an infrared countermeasure system.
“Lasers have been promised for a long time, but they’ve never held up and delivered what was asked for, so the operators are rightfully skeptical,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology Mary J. Miller said in an AP report.
“We have to make sure the lasers work and do the full set of scopes against the threats we project,” she said.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense