The US Army's laser weapon platoon will be ready next month

A new era of warfare is about to begin.
Ameya Paleja
Raytheon High-Energy Laser Mission
Raytheon High-Energy Laser Mission

Raytheon Technologies/YouTube 

The U.S. Army will field its first platoon of laser-powered weapons next month, Task & Purpose reported. Based on the Stryker vehicle platform, the weapon system dubbed Guardian consists of a 50-kilowatt laser system that can take down drones, rockets, and mortar.

The changing face of warfare has seen the use of cheaply assembled drones being deployed on battlefields today. Countering these dispensable attack options that can be deployed in hundreds and even thousands with conventional weapons can break the defense budgets of any nation.

Instead, a laser-powered energy weapon offers the ability to not only fire at targets rapidly but also has a limitless supply of ammunition. Such a weapon system is part of the U.S. Army's Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD.

The U.S. Army's Guardian laser system

The Guardian system is being made possible by the collaboration of two companies, Kord Technologies, and Raytheon Intelligence and Space. Kord, which won the award for developing the system in 2019 is responsible for integrating the weapon on the Stryker combat vehicle.

The laser weapon system consisting of a 50-kW high energy laser module, a specialized radar acquisition system, a targeting sensor, and a beam control system has been designed and developed by Raytheon. However, instead of just having unmanned aerial vehicles as its target, the system can take down multiple types of aerial threats, including rotary-wing aircraft, rockets, artillery, and mortars.

In May this year, Interesting Engineering reported how the laser weapon system was tested in live-fire exercises for a period of four weeks and was successful in defeating multiple 2.3-inch (60 mm) mortar rounds, alongside different-sized drones.

The Platoon is being readied

Laser-based weapon systems can be deployed equally well in the air and at sea. However, to begin with, the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) of the U.S. Army wants to deploy the system on the ground.

The weapon is powered by high-capacity batteries which can continue charging as long the Stryker's engines are running. Raytheon has put its defense contractor experience to use in this system as well and developed a training environment for cadets to get used to systems and prepare for the battlefield.

The feedback from the soldiers who tested the prototype was also taken into consideration and incorporated into the first set of combat vehicles that were set to be delivered in September this year. This has clearly pushed the roll-out of the platoon by a few months. However, now, the RCCTO looks to be satisfied with the progress made and has okayed the delivery of the first prototype platoon.

The Guardian system is set to arrive in Fort Hill, Oklahoma next month and the RCCTO has initiated the New Equipment Training (pNET) and New Equipment Fielding (pNEF) for the equipment, the Task & Purpose report said.