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Does US Have Laser Weapons?

© Photo : US Air ForceAn Air Force Special Operations Command photo illustration of a laser-equipped AC-130J Ghostrider gunship in action
An Air Force Special Operations Command photo illustration of a laser-equipped AC-130J Ghostrider gunship in action - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.10.2023
The integration of various laser technology-related weapon systems into the US military's arsenal, coupled with their potential in combating present and upcoming threats, magnifies the advantages offered by such cutting-edge military technology, thus showcasing its immense potential in shaping the future of warfare.
In the annals of military technology, few advances have generated as much intrigue and fascination as laser weapons. These cutting-edge systems represent a paradigm shift in warfare, offering precision and speed once reserved for science fiction.
At the forefront of this discussion is a critical question: does the United States currently have operational laser weapons in its military arsenal? With its far-reaching implications for national security, this question forms the crux of our inquiry.
In order to fully grasp the current state of laser weapons in the United States, it is crucial to delve into the historical background that has led us to where we are today. Decades of persistent research, experimentation, and technological innovation have paved the way for these formidable beams of directed energy.
This journey from a theoretical concept to a tangible military asset underscores the ingenuity of scientists and engineers. It also highlights the strategic foresight of military planners who recognized the potential transformative impact of harnessing light as a weapon.
Throughout this journey, we will explore official declarations, established systems, and continuous research endeavors to offer a comprehensive insight into the United States' engagement with laser weapons.
Sputnik delves into the historical aspect of the development of laser weapon systems by the US military, shedding light on the current state of laser weapons within the United States military. It provides valuable insights on deployed systems, ongoing research initiatives, and much more.

Historical Background

The Foundational 1960s

In 1961, Hughes Aircraft Company, a U.S. military contractor, announced an unprecedented achievement by the Malibu Research Laboratories. Ted Maiman, a luminary in their ranks, constructed a novel instrument capable of generating stimulated emission of optical radiation. This historic invention bore the name "laser," colloquially known as the "optical maser.''
This watershed event ushered in a new era of scientific exploration and unprecedented technological advancement. Military interests quickly recognized the enormous potential and swiftly rallied behind new research initiatives. These efforts sought to broaden the spectrum of laser capabilities and expand their applications.
In 1962, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) announced an annual investment of approximately $5 million in laser research and development. This funding was earmarked to explore the potential of laser beams, specifically their coherence, intensity, and directionality, for applications such as detection, rangefinding, aiming, and weaponization.
Within the Department of Defense (DoD), laser technology emerged as a key area of focus, prompting extensive research efforts at the institutional level. This included initiatives conducted through contracts and within in-house laboratories, with an emphasis on advancing the development of weapon systems for commercial deployment.
In the early 1960s, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Air Force, and the US Army Missile Command (MICOM) jointly pursued high-energy laser programs with congruent approaches and ultimate goals.
By 1962, the U.S. Army Ordnance Command had invested $700,000 in laser rangefinder development, with plans to increase this allocation to approximately $1.9 million in 1963. At the same time, the Air Force was showing considerable interest in using laser technology for aerospace weapons. In the same year, the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division, in collaboration with its in-house laboratories at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, dedicated over $1 million per year to laser research and development.


Stimulated Emission
The pivotal "MASER" discovery, which stands for "Means for Acquiring Support for Expensive Research," was made by Charles Townes and his colleagues in 1951 and led to the development of a microwave oscillator using ammonia. However, it wasn't until 1962 that the military recognized the potential of this breakthrough. While Townes' research was supported by military contracts, his team at Columbia and Gordon Gould's group at TRG Inc. secured additional funding from the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Charles Townes and his colleagues made a groundbreaking discovery in 1951. It was called the "MASER," which stands for "Means for Acquiring Support for Expensive Research." This monumental achievement paved the way for the creation of a microwave oscillator utilizing ammonia. However, it wasn't until 1962 that the military recognized the potential of this breakthrough. Townes' research was funded by military contracts, but his team at Columbia and Gordon Gould's group at TRG Inc. also managed to secure extra funding from the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Radiation Weapons
Launched in 1961, Project SEASIDE was a collaboration between the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Its primary objective was to enhance solid-state laser technology. The aim was to harness this weapon technology, explicitly devising a high-energy laser system for ballistic missile defense.
Laser Materials
In 1963, a major $2.5 million research program was initiated to advance laser materials. This ambitious effort addressed technological challenges that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) initially viewed as seemingly solvable, a matter of sufficient time and funding.
Systems Research
Improving the power and efficiency of solid-state lasers depends on refining the pump sources. This includes the development of high-energy coaxial laser pumps and the use of doped xenon lamp discharges supplemented by metal halides. In addition, experiments have been conducted using cesium iodide and calcium lamps pulsed at ten times their typical operating current.
Raman Shifted Lasers
The ONR laser programme has taken a holistic approach, including both component and system research, as well as an in-depth study of laser radiation propagation. This comprehensive investigation eventually led to the consideration of Raman scattering and frequency shifting using the Raman effect.
The Dynamic Gas Laser
The breakthrough in solving the high-energy laser dilemma came not from optics but from aerodynamics.
Work of laser probing industry in the Institute of image processing systems in Samara - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.09.2023
How Laser Weapons Work

Experimental 1970s

The 1970s were a period of experimentation and exploration in laser technology. The US Army, along with other military branches and agencies such as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), has conducted a multitude of experiments to examine the feasibility and potential uses of laser weaponry.
Between 1973 and 1974, the US Army initiated the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF) programme to explore the potential of high energy lasers for military applications.
Between 1973 and 1977, the US Army, in partnership with other branches of the military and agencies such as DARPA, embarked on a series of groundbreaking experiments. The objective was to delve into the realm of laser weapons, particularly chemical lasers, which were widely regarded as a beacon of hope during that era.
HELSTAR (High Energy Laser Systems Test and Evaluation Program) aimed to assess the potential of high energy laser systems for military applications. It involved the testing and evaluation of various laser technologies.
SELENE (Solid-state Laser Experiment) focused on solid-state lasers, which use a solid medium to produce laser light. The goal was to evaluate the capabilities of solid-state lasers for potential military use.
MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser) was a powerful chemical laser developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1970s. It was designed for testing and experimentation and was one of the most significant laser projects of its time.
COIL (Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser) was another chemical laser researched during this time. It used a combination of oxygen and iodine chemicals to produce a high-energy laser beam.
In 1977, Martin Marietta, which is now part of Lockheed Martin, received a contract from the US Army to lead the way in developing a groundbreaking chemical laser system, famously known as the Airborne Laser Laboratory Demonstration (ALLD). This groundbreaking technology was integrated onto a specially adapted Boeing 707 aircraft, marking a pivotal advancement in airborne laser capabilities.

The Pivotal 1980s

During this era, the U.S. Army and other military branches were heavily involved in research and development of laser weapons for potential military applications. The 1980s saw significant advances in high-energy laser (HEL) technology and the conceptualization of directed energy weapons (DEW). Research and development efforts in these areas continued beyond the 1980s and into the 21st century. Advances were made in various lasers (chemical, solid-state, free-electron) and directed energy weapon systems.
In 1980, the ALLD program achieved a groundbreaking milestone with the successful in-flight interception and destruction of a Sidewinder air-to-air missile. This marked a significant advancement in the development of laser weapon systems and demonstrated their potential effectiveness in real-world scenarios.
In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan unveiled the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), popularly known as "Star Wars''. This program aimed to create a comprehensive missile defense system using a variety of technologies, with lasers as a critical component of the arsenal. SDI included a wide range of research and development efforts to advance directed energy weapons, particularly lasers.
In 1984, the U.S. Armed Forces conducted key tests at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, showcasing the MIRACL. This solid-state laser achieved a remarkable power output of over one megawatt, highlighting the significant technological advances made during this period.
Between 1984 and 1987, the SDI program experienced a fast-paced phase of intensive research and development focused on directed energy weapons, specifically highlighting the advancements in laser-based technologies. During this period, collaborative efforts among laboratories, defense contractors, and government agencies advanced several laser projects.
In 1985, the Army initiated the Ground-Based Laser (GBL) project by mounting a chemical laser on a modified M60 Patton tank. While this experiment successfully demonstrated the potential of ground-based laser systems, it also revealed practical challenges that required further attention and refinement.
In a pivotal achievement in 1987, the US military establishment successfully tested the mid-infrared chemical laser against a target drone. This marked a significant leap forward in high-energy laser technology and underscored the growing capabilities of laser weapons in precision engagement and defense applications. Together, these milestones represented a significant advancement and experimentation in laser weapons development for the U.S. military during the 1980s.
A 50-kilowatt-class laser mounted on a US Army Stryker vehicle , shown during a live-fire exercise at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Part of the U.S. Army’s Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD. - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.05.2022
Raytheon Laser Weapon on Stryker Vehicle Succeeds at Shooting Down Incoming Mortar Shells

The Revolutionary 1990s & 2000s

In the late 1990s, the US military began a groundbreaking venture by initiating the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) program. This endeavor aimed to harness the potential of solid-state laser technology for military applications. By 2000, the program had advanced into its second phase, focusing on developing a formidable 10-kilowatt solid-state laser.
Meanwhile, in 2002, a pivotal joint venture between the US and Israel bore fruit with the successful interception of artillery rockets through the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (THEL) program. This achievement demonstrated the efficacy of directed energy weapons against fast-moving projectiles.
As the years progressed, 2004 marked a significant milestone with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the US Air Force conducting a triumphant Airborne Laser (ABL) test. This chemical oxygen iodine laser, mounted on a modified Boeing 747, successfully intercepted a target missile, showcasing the potential of aerial-based laser systems.
Building on this success, 2005 witnessed a leap forward with the Army's test of a 10-kilowatt solid-state laser at White Sands Missile Range. This achievement underscored the evolving capabilities of solid-state laser technology in the military domain.
In 2008, a dual triumph unfolded: the US armed forces achieved a breakthrough with a 105-kilowatt solid-state laser, a testament to the ever-increasing power and potential of laser weaponry. Simultaneously, the Airborne Laser system reached a milestone by successfully destroying a ballistic missile in flight, further cementing the viability of directed energy weapons.
The Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), working with agencies like the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Air Force, played pivotal roles in these advancements. Companies like Boeing and Raytheon also contributed their expertise to developing various laser weapon systems.
By 2009, the landscape of laser weaponry had been significantly transformed, with systems like the Airborne Laser and the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser demonstrating their effectiveness in intercepting and neutralizing threats. These milestones collectively represented a substantial leap forward in the US Army's pursuit of laser weapons for military use, setting the stage for further innovations in the years to come.

The 21st Century Advancements

The 21st century has witnessed remarkable progress in the development of laser weapons by the United States military, a journey marked by key milestones. Early research in the early 2000s initiated the exploration of directed energy weapons, paving the way for the Airborne Laser (ABL) program (2002-2011), which successfully demonstrated intercepts of ballistic missiles in controlled conditions. Simultaneously, solid-state laser (SSL) technology advancements in the mid-2000s led to more compact and robust laser systems, setting the stage for various applications.

Current Developments

In 2014, the US Navy achieved a significant milestone by deploying the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard the USS Ponce, capable of engaging small surface targets like drones and speedboats. In 2016, the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) showcased its prowess in engaging drones and incoming artillery rockets. Lockheed Martin's Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) system 2017 demonstrated the ability to shoot down multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with its high-power laser.
From 2018 to the present, the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has spearheaded multiple initiatives, focusing on developing low-cost, high-energy laser systems for missile defense and other applications. Current endeavors revolve around increasing the power and range of laser weapons and making these systems more compact and easily integrated into various platforms, including aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles. Moreover, research is underway to develop countermeasures against adaptive optics systems, mitigating atmospheric turbulence's effects on laser beams.
There is a terminology change for the US Military laser weapons project called Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). According to DoD, the term is defined as follows:

DE is an umbrella term covering technologies that produce concentrated electromagnetic (EM) energy and atomic or subatomic particles. A DE weapon is a system using DE primarily as a means to incapacitate, damage, disable, or destroy enemy equipment, facilities, and/or personnel.

Directed-energy warfare (DEW) is military action involving the use of DE weapons, devices, and countermeasures to incapacitate, cause direct damage or destruction of adversary equipment, facilities, and/or personnel, or to determine, exploit, reduce, or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) through damage, destruction, and disruption.

It also includes actions taken to protect friendly equipment, facilities, and personnel and retain friendly use of the EMS. With the maturation of DE technology, weaponized DE systems are becoming more prolific, powerful, and a significant subset of the electronic warfare (EW) mission area. DE examples include active denial technology, lasers, radio frequency (RF) weapons, and DE anti-satellite and high-powered microwave (HPM) weapon systems.

According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report obtained by Sputnik, there are two main types of DEWs in the US military arsenal: High-Energy Lasers (HELs) - which discharge light energy, and High-Powered Microwaves (HPMs) - which emit radiofrequency waves.
An Air Force Special Operations Command photo illustration of a laser-equipped AC-130J Ghostrider gunship in action - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.09.2022
US Air Force Reportedly Set to Test Its Aircraft Laser Weapon in Flight Next Year

High Energy Laser Weapon Systems In The US Military

A high-energy laser weapon system, often referred to as a high-energy laser (HEL) weapon system, is a type of directed energy weapon that uses high-powered lasers to produce a focused beam of intense energy. This energy is directed at a target, typically with the intent of destroying or disabling it.
The effectiveness of a high-energy laser weapon system lies in its ability to deliver energy at the speed of light, making it extremely difficult for targets to defend against. When the laser beam strikes a target, it can generate heat that can cause surface melting or vaporization of target components. Depending on the power and duration of the laser, this can result in a variety of effects, from burning through materials to causing structural damage.
High-energy laser weapon systems are used in a variety of military scenarios, including missile defense, counter-drone operations, and engagement of enemy aircraft or ground vehicles. They offer advantages such as precision, speed and an essentially unlimited supply of ammunition (as long as there is a power source). High-energy laser weapon systems generate and focus intense beams of light, typically lasers, to deliver a concentrated stream of energy to a target.
A high-power laser system starts with an energy source. This can be in the form of electricity, often provided by a power source such as a generator or high energy storage system. This electrical energy is then injected into a device known as the laser gain medium. This medium can be a solid, liquid, or gas capable of amplifying light. Common examples include synthetic crystals such as neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) or gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or diode-pumped alkali lasers (DPALs).
The energy in the laser gain medium causes some of the atoms or molecules to become "excited". When these excited particles return to their normal state, they emit photons (particles of light) in a specific direction. The emitted photons are confined within the laser cavity, which is typically formed by a pair of mirrors. One of the mirrors is partially reflective, allowing some light to escape. The other mirror is fully reflective, reflecting the photons back into the cavity. The photons travel back and forth between the mirrors, passing through the gain medium multiple times. This process amplifies the intensity of the light. The amplified light is then directed by optical components, such as lenses or mirrors, to shape and focus the beam. This ensures that the laser energy is concentrated into a small, powerful spot.
Before firing, the high-energy laser system must acquire and track the target. This is typically done using sophisticated targeting methods, including sensors such as cameras, rangefinders or radar. Once the target is acquired and tracked, the high-energy laser is fired. The focused beam of intense energy is directed at the target. When the laser beam hits the target, it rapidly transfers energy to its surface. This can result in effects such as melting, vaporization, or even combustion, depending on the power and duration of the laser. The effectiveness of a high-energy laser weapon system depends on factors such as the power of the laser, the accuracy of the targeting and tracking systems, atmospheric conditions, and the nature of the target material.
HELs are classified into three primary types: chemical, solid-state, and free-electron. Aside from differences in their lasing materials, each classification has intrinsic properties that influence their prospects as operational weapon systems.
Chemical Laser Weapon Systems
Currently, chemical lasers are the only existing directed energy (DE) systems capable of generating the power necessary to intercept targets, particularly ballistic missiles, at ranges of hundreds of kilometers. Consequently, until recently, these chemical lasers formed the basis of the Department of Defense's most advanced high-energy laser concepts.
Characteristics: Chemical lasers are known for their high power output and ability to operate continuously for long periods of time. They have historically been used in research and military applications..
Principle: Chemical laser weapon systems operate by utilizing specific chemical reactions that release energy in the form of heat. These reactions take place in a gaseous environment. Here's a step-by-step explanation:
Chemical Reactions: These systems utilize exothermic (energy-releasing) reactions involving specific combinations of chemicals in the gaseous phase. These reactions release energy in the form of heat.
Creation of Excited States: The exothermic reactions generate atoms or ions in an excited state within a lasing medium. In this state, the atoms or ions have excess energy.
Population Inversion: The excited atoms or ions are then raised to a higher energy level, creating what's known as a population inversion. This state occurs when more particles are in higher energy than lower ones, essential for lasing action.
Stimulated Emission: When a photon of the appropriate energy collides with an excited atom or ion, it triggers stimulated emission. This causes the excited atom or ion to release a photon in phase with the same energy and direction as the incoming photon.
Amplification: This stimulated emission process is repeated multiple times within the lasing medium. As a result, the number of photons of the same energy and direction increases rapidly, leading to amplification.
Optical Resonator: The lasing medium is placed between mirrors that form an optical resonator. This resonator helps to reflect and amplify the laser light within the system.
Output Coupler: One of the mirrors in the optical resonator is partially reflective, allowing some of the laser light to pass through. This is the output coupler, which lets the amplified laser beam exit the system.
High-Energy Laser Beam: The amplified photons exiting the system form a high-energy laser beam. This beam is then directed towards the target.
Target Interaction: When the laser beam hits the target, it transfers its energy, causing various effects depending on the target material. For example, it might cause heating, melting, or even vaporization.
Damage to the Target: The energy delivered by the laser beam can lead to structural damage, incapacitation, or destruction of the target.
Example: Airborne Laser (ABL)
The Boeing YAL-1 USAF Airborne Laser (ABL) was a directed energy weapon system developed by the US Missile Defense Agency. It used a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase. The ABL was mounted on a modified Boeing 747 aircraft and was designed for missile defense.
© Photo : Grey DynamicsThe Boeing YAL-1 USAF Airborne Laser (ABL)
The Boeing YAL-1 USAF Airborne Laser (ABL) - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
The Boeing YAL-1 USAF Airborne Laser (ABL)
Solid-State Lasers Weapon Systems
A solid-state laser weapon system is a directed energy weapon that uses solid-state materials to generate and deliver high-energy laser beams for military or industrial applications. Unlike gas or chemical lasers, which use gaseous media to produce laser light, solid-state lasers use solid materials (often crystalline or glass-like substances) as the active medium.
Characteristics: A solid-state laser weapon system is characterized by its ability to deliver a high level of energy in a concentrated area, known as high energy density. It produces coherent, monochromatic light, ensuring a focused and synchronized beam of a single wavelength. This allows for exceptional precision and targeting accuracy, making it suitable for applications that require precise aiming. In addition, solid-state lasers have fast response times, allowing rapid engagement of targets, and are typically compact and portable, making them easy to transport and deploy. These systems are known for their high energy conversion efficiency, which minimizes waste heat. They also tend to be reliable and have a long service life with low maintenance requirements. With diverse applications in military, industrial and scientific environments, solid-state lasers can be customized to emit light at different wavelengths. This versatility, coupled with improved beam quality and reduced environmental impact, solidifies their position as a critical technology in various fields.
Principle: Here's a breakdown of the basic components and functions of a solid-state laser weapon system:
Active Medium: The heart of the system is the solid-state medium itself, which can be a crystal or a glass-like material doped with specific elements (e.g., neodymium, ytterbium, erbium) that enable it to emit laser light when excited by an external energy source.
Pumping Source: Energy from an external source (usually electrical or light energy) is used to "pump" the active medium. This energizes the dopants within the solid-state material, causing them to release photons and initiate the laser process.
Optical Cavity: A laser cavity or resonator is used to reflect and amplify the laser light generated within the active medium. The cavity typically consists of mirrors at either end, with one being partially reflective to allow some light to escape and form the output beam.
Optical Components: Various optical components, such as lenses and beam steering devices, may shape, collimate, and direct the laser beam.
Control System: This encompasses the electronics, software, and control mechanisms necessary to manage the laser system. It regulates factors like power output, beam quality, and target acquisition.
Cooling System: Solid-state lasers generate heat during operation, and it's crucial to dissipate this heat to prevent damage to the system. This often involves using cooling technologies like liquid cooling or forced-air cooling.
Power Supply: A power source provides the necessary electrical energy to drive the system and pump the active medium.
Example: AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is a solid-state laser system developed by the US Navy. It utilizes a solid-state Nd:YAG laser to engage and destroy aerial and surface targets. LaWS was initially deployed on the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) for testing and evaluation.
© Photo : Defense UpdateAN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
 - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
Free-Electron Lasers (FELs)
A free-electron laser (FEL) weapon system is a directed energy weapon (DEW) that uses a beam of accelerated electrons to generate extremely high-power laser light. Unlike conventional lasers, which rely on optical resonators and mirrors, FELs use a different principle to generate coherent light.
Characteristics: First and foremost, these systems have a remarkable capacity for wavelength versatility, enabling them to adapt to different target types. With the potential to deliver extremely high-powered laser beams, free-electron lasers exhibit precision targeting, minimizing collateral damage while ensuring effective results. In addition, their rapid engagement capabilities, operating at the speed of light, provide a tactical advantage in certain scenarios.
Principle: Here's a breakdown of the fundamental components and functionalities of a solid-state laser weapon system:
Electron Beam Generation: FELs start with generating a high-energy electron beam. This is typically achieved by accelerating electrons through a linear accelerator (linac) or a circular accelerator (synchrotron) using powerful magnets and electric fields.
Undulator: The electron beam is then passed through a device called an undulator or a wiggler. This device consists of alternating magnetic poles along the path of the electrons. As the electrons travel through the undulator, they are forced to wiggle back and forth. This wiggling motion causes the electrons to emit synchrotron radiation in the form of high-energy photons.
Amplification of Radiation: The emitted photons interact with the wiggling electrons, causing them to release additional photons. This stimulated emission process leads to radiation amplification, similar to how a conventional laser works.
Coherent Light Output: The amplified photons emerge as a high-powered, coherent light beam from the undulator. This beam can be precisely focused and directed toward a target.
Target Interaction: When a high-energy laser beam strikes a target, it can quickly deliver a significant amount of energy. This can result in various effects depending on the nature of the target, including heating, melting, or even vaporization.
Example: US Navy's Free Electron Laser (FEL) Program
Evaluations within the U.S. Navy have identified free-electron laser (FEL) technology as a promising contender for state-of-the-art directed energy weapons. The FEL system at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has demonstrated its formidable potential, achieving power levels in excess of 14 kilowatts.
Groundbreaking progress is being made in advanced weapons, particularly in the development of compact, multi-megawatt free-electron laser (FEL) systems. A major milestone was reached on June 9, 2009, when the Office of Naval Research awarded a contract to Raytheon.
This contract was specifically for the development of a 100-kilowatt experimental FEL. Boeing Directed Energy Systems reached a significant milestone on March 18, 2010, when it unveiled the initial design tailored for U.S. Navy applications. This marked a significant step forward in the design of a prototype free electron laser (FEL) system. Plans have been set in motion to demonstrate a full-power prototype by 2018.

US Military High Power Microwaves Weapon Systems

The High-Power Microwave (HPM) weapon system emits electromagnetic energy beams over a wide range of radio and microwave frequencies. These emissions are characterized by two primary configurations: narrow-band (with a bandwidth of less than 1%) and wideband (with a bandwidth significantly greater than 1%). The primary goal of HPM technology is to interface with the electronic systems embedded in specific targets. Examples of HPMs include
Active Denial System

Raytheon, in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Department of Defense's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, led the development of the Active Denial System (ADS) in 2002. The primary goal of this technology is to deter individuals by causing discomfort without causing harm.
In practice, this innovative, harmless counter-personnel weapon operates in a manner reminiscent of a high-powered searchlight, emitting electromagnetic waves with a wavelength of 0.3 millimeters - a significant departure from the 0.0005 millimeter wavelength of visible light.
© Photo : / Active Denial SystemActive Denial System
Active Denial System - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
Active Denial System
This particular wavelength attribute enables the energy to penetrate clothing, a trait not found in visible light. Still, like visible light, it is absorbed by the outer layer of the skin.
Similar to visible light, the outer layer of skin absorbs ADS energy. When encountered at high intensity, such as concentrated sunlight through a lens, it causes a stinging sensation similar to intense sunlight on the skin. Despite this similar effect, ADS energy poses less of a risk because its longer wavelength does not break chemical bonds, making it non-carcinogenic, unlike overly concentrated sunlight.
The Army has been engaged in research and development of Solid State Active Denial Technology (SS-ADT) to address various mission scenarios, including crowd and access control, perimeter security and port security. This technology operates at 95 GHz millimeter wave radio frequency. According to the Army, it is designed to focus on minimizing health risks to its targets and to comply with relevant treaties and international legal obligations.
© Photo : / US Army Active Denial SystemUS Army Active Denial System
US Army Active Denial System - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
US Army Active Denial System
This underscores the commitment to ensuring safe and responsible deployment in operational contexts.
In its developmental trajectory, the ADS has passed through three distinctive configurations.
The ADS System 0, inaugurated in December 2000 at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, marked the initial development phase. This stationary field display model integrates a generator responsible for producing millimeter wave energy, which is then directed through an antenna to create an energy beam.
The ADS System 1, unveiled in 2004, represents a mobile configuration. While it shares the fundamental components of System 0 – a transmitter and antenna – it stands out by its incorporation into a hybrid electric High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). The ADS uses millimeter wave energy when the vehicle is stationary, powered by lithium batteries and a generator. A military personnel in the passenger seat operates the system using unique cameras to find the target. The pictures from the cameras show up on a screen in front of the person. A special tool measures how far the target is, and the person uses a stick to aim the device. When everything is set, the person makes the ADS send out energy towards the target. They can also choose how strong and how long the energy goes, with four strength options and six-time settings available.
The ADS, System 2, is undergoing development. This setup shares fundamental components with System 1. System 2 boasts various enhancements, including the capacity to function in elevated environmental temperatures, upgraded operating system software for heightened safety levels, and enhanced salt/fog resistance. Moreover, it incorporates a shielded, adaptable operating hub fortified with protective armor. However, due to the augmented weight and cooling requirements, System 2 is larger and heavier than its predecessor, System 1. It can be transported using specific military vehicles like the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT).
Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED)
This type of US military equipment encompasses a comprehensive set of strategies and measures implemented by military forces to identify, reduce the risk of, and render ineffective improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These rudimentary explosive devices, often used by insurgents, terrorists, or non-state actors, can take on various disguises, including concealed roadside bombs, car-borne explosives, or suicide vests.
The US Army, in cooperation with allied forces and other military services, has implemented a comprehensive strategy to counter the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Here are key elements of the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) effort, supported by examples:
Intelligence and information sharing: It involves gathering intelligence on insurgent networks and their IED production capabilities and sharing this information with all relevant parties to enhance situational awareness.
Surveillance and Reconnaissance employs drones, ground-based sensors, and other reconnaissance tools to monitor areas of interest for suspicious activities or the presence of potential IEDs.
Training and education deals with providing specialized training to soldiers on recognizing IED indicators, handling explosives, and utilizing equipment designed for IED detection and disposal.
Technology and equipment deploy advanced detection equipment such as mine detectors, ground-penetrating radars, and electronic jammers to neutralize or disable IEDs from a safe distance.
Route clearance functions by systematically searching roads and pathways that military convoys are expected to travel, using specialized vehicles equipped with mine rollers, flails, and other counter-IED tools.
Improvised Explosive Device Defeat (IEDD) involves deploying specialized teams of engineers and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) experts to identify, disarm, and dispose of IEDs safely.
Counter-insurgency operations function by conducting targeted operations against insurgent groups to disrupt their networks and supply chains, including efforts to locate and destroy IED-making facilities.
Civil-military cooperation involves engaging with local communities to gain their trust, gather intelligence, and encourage them to report suspicious activities, ultimately helping to identify potential IED threats.
Post-incident analysis in the aftermath of IED incidents to gather intelligence on insurgents' tactics, techniques, and procedures, which can inform future C-IED efforts.
The US Army's Armament, Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) took control of the Air Force Research Laboratory's "Max Power" program in May 2017. This program was specifically designed to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in active combat zones.
In 2012, a Max Power prototype was deployed to Afghanistan for an extensive nine-month testing program. During this time, the system played a critical role in 19 active combat operations, providing essential support to convoys navigating roads and highways fraught with the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The MaxPower microwave system is a technological tour de force that emits an electromagnetic pulse a billion times more powerful than a standard household microwave. At the heart of this system is an extensive array of magnetrons - high-capacity vacuum tubes designed to generate microwaves. The resulting energy discharge has the potential to disrupt an IED's triggering mechanism, ensuring its detonation long before it poses a threat to a convoy.
© Photo : Taskandpurpose.comAir Force Research Laboratory "MaxPower"
Air Force Research Laboratory MaxPower  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
Air Force Research Laboratory "MaxPower"
The Husky Vehicle-Mounted Mine Detection System is a technological tour de force that emits an electromagnetic pulse a billion times more powerful than a standard household microwave. At the heart of the system is an extensive array of magnetrons - high-capacity vacuum tubes designed to generate microwaves. The resulting energy discharge has the potential to disrupt an IED's triggering mechanism, ensuring its detonation long before it poses a threat to a convoy.
© Photo : Army Technology / Husky Vehicle Mounted Mine DetectorHusky Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD)
Husky Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD) - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.09.2023
Husky Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD)

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) operates by emitting high-frequency electromagnetic pulses into the ground and then recording the reflections or echoes that bounce back. The essential components of a GPR system include:

Antenna: The antenna emits electromagnetic pulses into the ground and receives the reflected signals. It's designed to operate at specific frequencies depending on the application.

Control Unit: This unit controls the timing and duration of the radar pulses and the reception of the reflected signals. It also processes the received signals for display and analysis.

Display Unit: The display unit presents the GPR data in a graphical format, typically showing depth profiles or "radargrams" that display variations in material properties beneath the surface.

Data Processing Software: Specialized software helps to process and interpret the GPR data, allowing analysts to identify subsurface features or anomalies.

Is Laser Technology Going To Pioneer Next-Gen Weapon Systems?

Although the U.S. military currently has several laser-based weapon systems as part of its arsenal, the push for more military spending on new or next-generation military technology continues as the military landscape evolves. Military leaders, in conjunction with the U.S. military-industrial complex, continue to chart a course toward incorporating defensive mechanisms into the next generation of combat technology innovations. A central feature under consideration is the combination of an active protection system powered by directed energy technology, which represents a viable alternative to the established paradigm of mounted weapons.
According to several documents related to the U.S. Army's directed energy programs, the Army emphasizes the potential of active protection systems incorporating laser technology to provide a comprehensive 360-degree defense against incoming projectiles or UAV threats. In addition, these laser-based weapon systems have the ability to disable or potentially eliminate enemy vehicles, enhancing the defensive capabilities of military assets. Officials emphasize that key decisions must be made by 2025 in order to begin fielding Army units equipped with next-generation military weapons by 2035. This timeline underscores that the U.S. Army has approximately seven years to advance laser weapon technology to the point where it is a realistic contender for integration into the next generation of combat vehicles.
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