Aug. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. Army says it’s developed a combat-capable prototype of a high-energy laser weapon.
The laser, which has been 24 months in the making, can be mounted on a Stryker military vehicle and used to defend troops against drones as well as rockets, artillery and mortars, according to an Army press release this week.
Over the summer, the new weapon was successfully tested in Fort Sill, Okla., in a “combat shoot-off” against a series of possible combat scenarios.
The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office said it expects to deliver a platoon of four laser-equipped Strykers in fiscal year 2022.
“This is the first combat application of lasers for a maneuver element in the Army,” said Lieutenant General L. Neil Thurgood said in the release.
“The technology we have today is ready. This is a gateway to the future,” said Thurgood, director for hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition.
The shoot-off was a competition between defense contractors Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, which had both developed two 50-kilowatt laser weapons, Task & Purpose reported.
The Directed Energy-Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense laser prototype was built with a soldier-centered design, which the Army said was proven as soldiers were operating the system proficiently within days.
Other branches of the military are developing similar technology.
Last year, the Navy broke ground on a facility to test, fire and evaluate complete laser weapons systems in maritime settings.
Earlier this year, the Air Force said it would continue tests of its High Energy Laser Weapon System 2, made by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, that would also be used against drones.
The military had originally hoped to use laser-equipped Strykers in Iraq and Syria against explosive-laden drones but now plans to use the technology in Europe where military planners short-range air defense gap.
The Army is also working on a larger 300 kilowatt truck-mounted laser to defend against cruise missiles that it hopes to have ready by 2024.