Air Force to Deploy Ground-Based Lasers in First Field Test of "Directed Energy" Weapon

The Air Force said Friday it is planning the first operational field test of laser weapons, which are part of a $23 million Raytheon contract. The test, to be conducted in an undisclosed location outside the continental United States, will focus on how the weapons perform against small drones. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Air Force said Friday it is planning the first operational field test of laser weapons, which are part of a $23 million Raytheon contract. The test, to be conducted in an undisclosed location outside the continental United States, will focus on how the weapons perform against small drones. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

August 13, 2019 | Source: Washington Post, Aaron Gregg, 2 August 2019

The Air Force announced Friday it will soon deploy two ground-based laser weapons to an undisclosed location to test how they can be used against small drones, the Service’s first “operational field test” of an experimental “directed energy” weapon.

On Friday afternoon, the Air Force announced a $23 million sole-source contract for two of Raytheon’s High Energy Laser Weapons Systems through which the systems are to be tested for 12 months in an undisclosed “contested environment” outside the continental United States.

“What we really want to do is figure out how we can deploy these systems in an environment where our Warfighters work and train every day,” said Evan Hunt, director of high energy laser and counter-UAS at Raytheon. (UAS stands for unmanned aerial system.)

The 10-kilowatt lasers are to be mounted on small ground-based vehicles and aimed using an interface similar to a video game controller. The prototype laser weapons were built by Raytheon and incorporate a range of components from the commercial technology industry, including high-performance lithium-ion batteries, the same type used in electric vehicles.

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