The Office of Naval Research has just announced another breakthrough in its efforts to bring laser-based weapons to future battlefields. What once could only be accommodated by a tractor trailer now fits neatly in the back seat of a Humvee. It's only a matter of time until our armed forces march off to war with GI Joe-style laser rifles.
Dubbed the Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program (GBAD), these light truck-mounted laser systems work in the same manner as the HEL MD (below) but at a fraction of the cost, power, and footprint. So while the HEL MD will eventually be outputting 100 KW to shoot down cruise missiles, this 30 KW GBAD will instead target enemy UAVs.
"We can expect that our adversaries will increasingly use UAVs and our expeditionary forces must deal with that rising threat," Col. William Zamagni, acting head of ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department, said in a statement. "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."
The ONR is, unsurprisingly, keeping details of how they were able to shrink the components down so much, though Extremetech reports that this is accomplished partially by siphoning energy from the vehicle's drivetrain—producing 10 KW while driving and as much as 30 KW when parked with the engine idling. Idling will also supposedly charge the laser's batteries up to 80 percent from exhausted in just 20 minutes.