The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Boeing [BA] last week announced that in May they demonstrated the ability of mobile laser weapon systems to perform a unique mission: track and destroy small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The demonstration served to improve the United States’ ability to prevent, detect, track and engage hostile homeland and theater air threats.
During the Air Force-sponsored tests at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., the Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX)–developed by Boeing under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory–used a single, two and a half kilowatt class high-energy laser to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges.
Separately, Laser Avenger, a Boeing-funded initiative, also shot down a UAV.
Representatives of the Air Force and Army observed the tests.
“The Air Force and Boeing achieved a directed-energy breakthrough with these tests,” Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems’ Directed Energy Systems unit, said in a Nov. 18 statement. “MATRIX’s performance is especially noteworthy because it demonstrated unprecedented, ultra-precise and lethal acquisition, pointing and tracking at long ranges using relatively low laser power.”
Bill Baker, chief scientist of the AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, praised his team and Boeing for these successful UAV shoot downs.
“These tests validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland,” he said. “The team effort of Boeing and the Air Force in developing MATRIX will pay major dividends for the warfighter now and in the years ahead.”
As part of the overall counter-UAV demonstration, Boeing also successfully test-fired a lightweight 25mm machine gun from the Laser Avenger platform to potentially further the hybrid directed energy/kinetic energy capability against UAV threats.
Additionally, the Mobile Acquisition and Tracking System (MATS) developed by Air Force scientists and engineers was used during the field test to demonstrate additional technologies for passive acquisition and tracking of small UAS and laser engagement.
Boeing Directed Energy Systems, based in Albuquerque, developed MATRIX, a mobile, trailer-mounted test bed that integrates with existing test-range radar. Directed Energy Systems and Boeing Combat Systems in St. Louis cooperatively developed Laser Avenger, which integrates a directed-energy weapon together with the existing kinetic weapons on the proven Avenger air defense system developed by Combat Systems.
Boeing is developing laser weapon systems for a variety of Air Force, Army and Navy applications. These systems include the Airborne Laser, Advanced Tactical Laser, Free Electron Laser, High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator and Tactical Relay Mirror System.