July 07, 2015

US Army installing 15 MRAPs with IED blasting lasers

Fifteen Cougar MRAP (Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles) are being fitted with robotic arms and a 3-kilowatt laser, which the user aims and fires using a PlayStation 4-like controller. The program is called Recovery of Airbase Denied by Ordnance (RADBO).

They could be ready by early fiscal year 2017, program officials said. The vehicle, and its aftermarket add-ons, will allow for the safer, faster disposal of runway-blocking ordnance.

The laser on the RADBO will draw from two alternators providing a combined 1,100 amps of power. With that, it can detonate explosives from almost 1,000 feet away, the occupants inside the MRAP protected from any ensuing blast. In case the bomb is stuck in a crack or under rubble, RADBO has a mechanical arm that can pull away up to 50 pound of debris. Laser weapons sometimes struggle to destroy moving targets, but landmines and IEDs remain in place, making them ideal laser targets.

1. IED-zapping. The RADBO's Zeus III laser allows the operator to trigger an unexploded bomb from up to 300 meters away, said Air Force Col. Jeffry Gates, senior materiel leader for the support element and vehicles division at the Air Force's Agile Combat Support Directorate. The attached Interrogation Arm/claw combo can clear up to 50 pounds of debris, according to an Army release, helping speed the process.

The 15-vehicle procurement, plus research and development costs, comes to $42 million, Gates said.

2. One-stop shopping. Current ordnance-clearing methods can involve crews attempting to trigger explosives via kinetic energy, Gates said — in other words, shooting at them with a vehicle-mounted .50-caliber weapon, or similar. When the ordnance doesn't explode, a remote-control loader is called in to get the dangerous device off the runway to be dealt with later by bomb-disposal teams.

Cougar MRAP (Photo: Army)

3. Clearance while covered. RADBO's design protects its users while increasing their hit rate, Gates said. Instead of manning a .50-cal weapon, the crew member operating the vehicle's laser is enclosed, lining up his shot with a camera that offers visual- and infrared-spectrum capabilities.

There are more compact and powerful lasers being produced by Boeing.

Beoing has a ten kilowatt system that weighs 650 pounds and would probably be operated by a squad of eight to 12 soldiers or Marines.

Able to be assembled in just 15 minutes, LWS is capable of generating an energy beam of up to 10 kilowatts that can, depending on the power level, be used to acquire, track, and identify a target -- or even destroy it -- at ranges of at least 22 miles. The weapon is designed specifically to track and attack moving aerial targets such as incoming artillery rounds, and low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Setting Up a compact laser weapon ststem at marine squad tactics exercise in Yuma, Arizona. Image Source: USMC.

SOURCES - Army Times, Popular Science, Fool.com

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