A laser beam the size of a quarter fired from the back of a truck successfully shot down football-size mortar rounds and took small drones out of the sky.
In the world of directed-energy weapons, this was a milestone achievement, government and industry officials said. It happened between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10 during tests of the Army “high energy laser mobile demonstrator” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Laser beams that can replace bullets and missiles have been a tantalizing prospect for decades, but the Pentagon has been less than enthusiastic. Directed-energy is what experts consider a “disruptive” technology that upsets the status quo. The notion that military forces would ditch proven kinetic weapons and take chances with light beams has made lasers a tough sell so far.
The Army tested a 10-kilowatt laser and beam director mounted on an eight-wheel 20-ton truck. It engaged more than 90 60mm mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles from less than two miles away. A surrogate radar was used to queue the laser.