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Development of energy weapons in the armed forces of the United States and China
Material posted: Publication date: 24-05-2020

In the leading foreign countries, along with development of conventional means of warfare is actively developing weapons based on new physical principles, in particular energy weapons. Energy weapons designed to destroy or disable weapons, military and special equipment by subjecting it to a powerful focused laser radiation.

In the US, developed laser combat system Lavs (LaWS – Laser Weapon System) and "Helios" (HELIOS – High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical Dazzler and Surveillance). They represent powerful semiconductor laser that is intended for combating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASM) and small boats of the enemy. Its advantages are low cost of the shot (comparable with the price of fuel expended in the production of electricity), fast reaction speed and unlimited ammunition. The disadvantages are: low range (roughly from 1.5 to 3.5 km), atmospheric absorption, scattering and turbulence, which do not allow the use of lasers in all weather conditions, and the risk of damage (loss of own aircraft, spacecraft and crews

The development and application of this type of weapons within the Navy due to, primarily, the presence of surface ships (NC) required source of electricity and sufficient space to accommodate proper weapons on Board (prototypes have large dimensions and weight).

Development of laser combat systems in the United States passed through several stages. From 2009 to 2012, the Navy conducted a series of ground and sea tests of a prototype of a semiconductor laser Lavs against UAVs. It was announced the achievement of the radiation power of 30 kW.

In 2010-2011, we performed tests of laser combat MLD (MLD Maritime Laser Demonstration), in which was effected the defeat of a small boat.

From August 2014 to September 2017 combat the semiconductor laser Lavs was installed on the front bridge of a converted landing ship "Ponce" (Ponce) US Navy (Fig. 1), and was used to combat small boats and swarms of UAVs. The system then Lavs was removed and sent for maintenance and further testing on the program "Helios" as a ground sample.


Fig.1. Laser complex Lavs on the landing ship "Ponce"

Subsequent work with the systems Lavs and MLD are produced in the framework of the project SSL TM (Solid-State Lasers – Technology Maturation). The participation of the Corporation "BAE systems" (BAE Systems), "Northrop Grumman" (Northrop Grumman) and "Raytheon" (Raytheon). Currently carried out to develop a shipboard laser with a radiation power of 100-150 kW.

In October 2015, the U.S. Department of defense announced the conclusion of a contract with the company "Northrop Grumman" on the production of a new combat of a semiconductor laser according to the project SSL TM. In January 2018, it was announced that it is set on the landing ship "Portland" (Portland) the United States Navy. The structure of the new complex is shown in Fig. 2.


Fig.2. The components of the complex individual protection
surface ships, developed under the project SSL TM

In parallel, in 2018 began developing a laser combat system "Helios" project SNLVS (SNLWS – Surface Navy Laser Weapon System). In the course of the project is scheduled to reach radiation power of 60 kW with possibility of increase up to 150 kW. The contract for the development, manufacture and supply of two systems was signed with the company "Lockheed Martin". One system will be installed in the destroyer type "O. Burke" (DDG-51). The second is designed to conduct further ground tests of the laser weapon, which is scheduled for 2020. The total contract value is estimated at $ 150 million.

Made in USA technical development of laser weapons allows you to fight effectively against UAVs and small boats, but insufficient to combat current and potential ASM. However, on Board NK can accommodate multiple systems of laser weapons that provide the desired total power. Funding promising research, including project SNLS associated with the creation of laser combat systems, produced in the framework of programme element 0603925N "Directed energy systems and energy weapons (Directed Energy and Electric Weapon System)". It includes three projects: "Development of a powerful laser missile defense" (High Energy Laser Counter the ASCM Project (HELCAP)), SNLS and "the Use of lasers in the Navy" (Lasers for Navy application) expected volumes of financing presented in the table.


Funding R & d performed in the framework of PE 0603925N

Name of project

Funding (estimate), mln.







Total until 2024

The project 2731 "Development of a powerful laser missile defense"








The project 3402 "SNLS"








The Project 9823 "Application
lasers in the Navy"








In General
programme element


Of 118.2








In the framework of the project "Development of a powerful laser missile defense" studies of the processes of generation and propagation of laser radiation, is searching for a technical solution to increase the radiation power, precision targeting and other characteristics of the laser systems.

The project "the Use of lasers in the Navy" includes the development of methods of combat employment of laser systems, development of requirements, recommendations and restrictions on their dissemination and exploitation in the Navy, given the nature of the tasks.

In the United States army developed and tested a combat laser system "Michel" (MEHEL – Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser) (Fig. 3). It is designed to combat UAV enemy that cannot be destroyed existing systems of air defense (PVO).


Fig.3. The appearance of a fighting laser complex "Michel"
on the basis of the armored vehicle the "Stryker"

A medium laser is a complex machine M1131 fire support "striker", the armament of the U.S. army. Installation with a laser emitter mounted on the roof of the housing at a certain distance from the main combat module.

Various units of the complex "Michel" are mounted inside and on its surface. So, on the frontal armor of the starboard fit several rectangular casings antenna devices. More antennas with telescopic masts are located on the sides and aft of the vehicle. Also in the outdoor equipment consists of optical-electronic station and actual combat laser.

Detection and monitoring it is proposed to mount in the rear "striker", whereas a device with a laser – directly behind the compartment on the roof. Inside the armored corps are placed controls and auxiliary equipment. Control over the work of the laser and other systems is carried out using the remote control. The power is supplied from the regular sources of the platform carrier. All the stages of preparation for the military operation and the subsequent "firing" is carried out using the remote control; leave the machine when not required.

As a means of search and guidance you use your own radar station (radar) and optical-electronic system. They provide all-weather round-the-clock monitoring of air situation. According from these funds is laser guidance and support or defeat the purpose. Means of communication provide a receiving target designation from external sources. The obtained target data are passed to the fire control system.

In conjunction with laser combat system "Michel", the complex set of jamming of control channels and data transmission UAV, which increases the efficiency of dealing with them.

The first tests took place in early 2016. The radiation power of the laser system was about 2 kW. They were confirmed by his ability to hit a light UAV made of plastic with a low airspeed. After upgrading the capacity was increased to 5 kW. It is expected that by 2020 capacity will reach 18 kW that will allow to deal with larger UAVs, to rockets and artillery shells. To defeat such purposes it is necessary to reduce the reaction time of the complex. It is planned by improving the characteristics of the radar, ECO and software.

With the aim of creating lasers for installation of container type, air-based capacity of over 30 kW DARPA (DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) participates in the programs of "Endurance" (Endurance) and "Flash" (Flash). The basis of laser systems, developed in the framework of these programs needs to be up to 100 fiber lasers with a power of three kilowatts each, the combined optical phased array.

In 2014, the program "Endurance" experts DARPA demonstrated the Assembly of fiber lasers with a power of 1.3 kW each, able to generate the amount of beam power higher than 30 kW, with the quality close to the diffraction limit, an efficiency of about 25%. Also the evaluation of health 21-jacheechnoj optical phased array.

The aim of the programme "Flash" is the development of technologies in order to create a laser system generating high beam quality, output up to 100 kW ("ammo" – 30 shots) to defeat missiles "earth-air" and "air-air" with optical homing head.

Management of DARPA, together with the research laboratory of the U.S. air force to develop adaptive optical system "Abs" (ABC Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control) for the aviation complex of laser weapons. The contractor is the company "Lockheed Martin". A pilot version of the system, "Abs", placed on the fuselage of the aircraft shown in Fig. 4.


Fig.4. A pilot version of the system "Abs"

2017 DARPA in the framework of the project "Euclid" (EUCLID – Efficient Ultra-Compact Laser Integrated Devices) is developing compact diode lasers for fiber installations. Efficiency will be 58-60%. The aim of the research is to reduce the weight and size parameters of laser systems for use on Board aircraft, automotive and armored vehicles and small boats.

Klemanski University (Clemson University) under contract with the U.S. Department of defense has developed the fiber optic, which is compared with the existing models is able to withstand and generate high-energy radiation. The same University works to improve the quality of the beam at the exit of powerful diode lasers.

In China completes the development of its own laser combat systems "I Lag" (LAG I – Low Altitude Guard I) and "silent hunter" (Silent Hunter).

Laser combat facility "Lag I" (Fig. 5) is a joint development made by specialists of the Chinese Academy of engineering physics (Chinese Academy of Physics Engineering) and the company "Gastec" (JHTEC – Jiuyuan Hi-Tech Equipment Corporation). It is based on solid-state laser power of 10 kW. The device ensures the defeat of high-speed low-flying targets at a distance up to two kilometers.


Fig.5. Laser combat facility "Lag I"

The fire control system of the laser system "Lag I" has a maximum level of automation. Electronic equipment installation provides independent detection, identification and tracking purpose. The operator just needs to press the button to open fire when the target gets into range of the laser beam.

Compact installation dimensions "Lag I" allow secretly install it on the roofs of tall buildings and place them around the infrastructure of protected objects, about nuclear power plants, industrial plants, airfields and military bases.

Mobile laser combat system "silent hunter" (Fig. 6) designed to engage UAVs and small piloted aircrafts. For the first time the complex was demonstrated at the International aerospace show in China in 2018. It is housed in the truck.


Fig.6. Mobile laser combat system "silent hunter"

According to the statements of the Chinese representatives, the radiation power is from 50 to 70 kW, the maximum range – 4000 m. radiation Power is sufficient for burning steel sheet with a thickness of 5 mm at ranges of 800 m and a sheet thickness of 2 mm at a distance of 1000 m.

Thus, currently, the technological reserve created in the United States and China, allow in the short term to adopt and begin mass production of laser combat systems. The achieved results allow to effectively apply these systems to combat the small UAV, which present an increased danger because they can not be affected by existing air defense systems, and their electronic jamming is not always possible. Other advantages of this type of weapons over conventional weapons is the lack of ammunition and low cost of the shot. Disadvantages – short range and dependence on weather conditions.

In the period to 2035 laser combat system, presumably, will be able to achieve a radiation power of 500 kW, which will ensure effective engagement of all types of UAVs, guided missiles, including cruise and small boats.

One of the perspective directions of increasing the defence capabilities of States is placing the appropriate weapons systems in space in the interests of missile defense to defend against Intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Ruslan Bolonchuk

Tags: USA , armed forces , China

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