June 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marines announced Wednesday that they are testing a portable, ground-based laser prototype for shooting down drones.
The Compact Laser Weapons System, or CLaWS, is the first ground-based directed energy weapon approved by the Defense Department. It will be evaluated for several months, with the aim of upgrading it to be included in fixed-site and other mobile situations.
Boeing Co. first announced the weapon in 2015. It is a portable device capable of using an invisible laser to take down targets several hundred meters away. It was designed to focus energy on a small enough spot to heat and destroy targets, including moving ones -- such as drones.
"Think of it like a welding torch being put on target but from many hundreds of meters away," Boeing engineer Isaac Neil said at the time of the introduction.
In 2018, Boeing expressed an interest in mounting the CLaWS on tactical vehicles, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle under development to replace the Humvee. The CLaWS comes in 2-, 5- and 10-kW variants and can be carried by two or more Marine personnel.
"One of the related aspects of the CLWS is that it's a counterintelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool," said Jim Leary, Boeing director of weapons global sales. "You can shoot down enemy drones that might be observing friendly troops. That's the beauty of this laser."