Navy developing laser weapon for U.S. Marines

A vehicle-carried laser system to counter unmanned aerial vehicles is being developed for the U.S. Marine Corps under a project by the Office of Naval Research.
By Richard Tomkins  |  June 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM
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ARLINGTON, Va., June 12 (UPI) -- A laser weapon to be deployed on light tactical vehicles for use against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles is in the offing.

The U.S. Office of Naval Research announced this week it is working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division and industry partners on the Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, or GBAD, and has issued contracts for the system for the U.S. Marine Corps.

"Aggressive action against air threats is needed for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to conduct expeditionary maneuver," said Lee Mastroianni, program manager for Force Protection in ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. "Everything about this program is geared toward realizing a viable directed-energy capability in support of that objective to allow our Marines to be fast and lethal."

The announcement comes as the Navy prepares to deploy its first laser weapon aboard a ship this summer.

The contracts issued are for GBAD's components and sub-systems -- including the actual laser -- beam director, batteries, radar, advanced cooling, and communications and command-and-control systems. Some of the system's components already have been used in tests to detect and track UAVs.

The Navy said that later this year researchers will test the entire system against targets using a 10kW laser as a stepping stone to a 30kW laser. The 30kW system is expected to be ready for field testing in 2016.

"We can expect that our adversaries will increasingly use UAVs and our expeditionary forces must deal with that rising threat," said Col. William Zamagni, acting head of ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. "GBAD gives the Marine Corps a capability to counter the UAV threat efficiently, sustainably and organically with austere expeditionary forces.

"GBAD employed in a counter-UAV role is just the beginning of its use and opens myriad other possibilities for future expeditionary forces."

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