Armored ground vehicles are testing combat lasers in the 10 kilowatt range now and railguns tests, 30 kilowatt lasers next year

The Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill is now experimenting with new weapons technology that could potentially replace the howitzers and air defense missile systems of today.
Two laser systems and a railgun were demonstrated for the media at Thompson Hill Range Complex on Thursday.

The lasers are silent, invisible and deadly. On just a coffee cup’s worth of diesel, they can pinpoint a drone and use auto-tracking to dog its path. Their photon beams can bring down an unmanned aerial system (UAS) by heating up one of the parts that controls its flight, such as a camera or a rotor, until it melts.

Fires Battle Lab Director John Haithcock explained how three radar systems (Sentinel, the new counter-battle Q-53 that can detect air and ground threats simultaneously and two Q-50s) and a modified Avenger weapon system with an infrared sight all come into play. He also pointed out a multi-purpose vehicle equipped with a command and control application, an electronic warfare circuit system and some enhanced sights.

There are also dismounted versions of what the vehicle has that provide counter-UAS and joint forcible entry capabilities.

Many entities are involved in the experiments. The Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center at Huntsville, Ala., brought a High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck (HELMTT) mounted with a 10-kilowatt laser, according to Adam Aberle, who oversees the center’s directed energy technology development and demonstrations.

The command also made arrangements with General Dynamics and Boeing to bring a 2-kilowatt laser mounted on a Stryker vehicle. The latter is called the Stryker MEHEL, which stands for Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.

Robert Taylor, left, and Gary Hopper of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) get ready to explain the railgun at left and the mobile pulsar that powers it, housed in the vertical box behind it.

Fort Sill is also the site where hypersonic projectile’s are being tested using Electromagnetic Railgun technology. The railgun delivers muzzle velocities greater than twice those of conventional guns.

One of those technologies being explored is whether drones can be knocked out of the battlefield skies with lasers.

“Think of it [2-10 kilowatt combat lasers] like a welding torch being put on a target, but from many hundreds of meters away,” Isaac Neal, a Boeing engineer, said in a video about the new weapons system that was posted on the defense contractor’s website.

In tests the lasers were able to locate, aim and fire at a small drone flying. The laser gun acts quickly (it took just 15 seconds for it to shoot the test drone out of the sky) and discreetly, according to Neal. Speedy reaction times can be important in battles when every second counts.

30 kilowatt ground based lasers should be tested in 2017

The Ground-Based Air Defense On-the-Move is a vehicle-based, mobile, high-energy laser that is a cost-effective defense against asymmetric threats like UAVs. GBAD’s evolution has mirrored that of other directed-energy programs sponsored by ONR, including the Laser Weapon System (LaWS).

A three vehicle laser system should be demoed with on the move downing of drones using a 30 kilowatt laser in 2017.

* one vehicle has the 30 kw laser
* one has 360 radar and tracking
* one has command and control and communication

The volumetric search RADAR locates unmanned aerial system (UAS) targets of interest and passes the information to the C3 platform. The C3 platform performs an analysis of the threat and passes the radar information to the laser platform, which then locates and begins tracking the UAS utilizing a day/night capable sensor system. This then allows the C3 platform to perform visual confirmation and aim point selection. If a kill decision is made, the threat is lased until destruction.

GBAD will demonstrate the capability of a rugged, expeditionary HEL system that can be cued by a radar capable of detecting low radar cross-section threats. It will be able to perform hard kills of UASs to prevent reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and acquisition of expeditionary forces. It also will demonstrate a C2 interface that is optimized for operational use.

Significant laser and vehicle modeling and simulation, coupled with a detailed trade-off analysis, led to a sophisticated design strategy. This led to the selection of a palletized laser weapon system design using a planar wave guide laser for 30 kW nominal power; a lightweight reflective beam director; on-board vehicle power enhancements; lithium Ion batteries for power storage; and phase-change material cooling systems that conform to the size, weight and power constraints of using a tactical vehicle platform.

This five-year development effort includes three key demonstrations of increased capabilities and culminating in an on the move end-to-end engagement of UASs in FY17.

FY15: Completely stationary end-to-end engagement
FY16: Demonstrate an at-the-halt single engagement, with mobile cueing / tracking
FY17: Demonstrate full mobility between multiple engagements

The Ground Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-the-Move Future Naval Capabilities program calls for a field demonstration of a Humvee-mounted short-range laser weapon system with a minimum power output of 25kW. The Raytheon-built laser will be packaged to meet the U.S. Marine Corps’ demanding size, weight and power requirements. Illustration: Raytheon

BAE Systems officials said the rail gun would have to be scaled down if it were to be mounted on top of the turret of a Future Fighting Vehicle. However, the officials on the AUSA show floor were confident it was possible.

* mach 7 kinetic energy round (twice the muzzle velocity and four times the kinetic energy)
* cheaper round that has no explosives in it so it is safer to store
* the Navy gun is 30 feet (10 meters long) which is the same as the M1 tank gun. It is the power and other systems that need to be fitted to a ground vehicle
* more ammo for deeper magazine
* General Atomic has a larger (almost no miniturization work needed) mobile land based railgun system proposed that would be multiple mission and focused on destroying missiles and other targets

Railgun on the back of flatbed of a truck during testing. Firing through concrete and metal. This if from the General Atomics video

Image of the navy railgun to be deployed in sea trials in 2016. This gun would be reduced in size for a tank killing railgun for a new ground Vehicle

General Atomics has a vision of a mobile ground based railgun system that involves three heavy trucks. BAE would have to reduce the size and weight of a fighting vehicle gun by about ten times.

BAE Systems presented a host of possible technologies at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference last week. Among those was a model of the electromagnetic rail gun the company is developing for the Navy.

The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.

General Atomics Video
General Atomic vision of a mobile land based railgun system on three bigger and heavier trucks

SOURCES- Navy, Youtube, swoknews, Army, BAE Systems