The US Army is tripling the power on a laser cannon built to shoot down rockets, drones, and 'more stressing threats'

A 5 kilowatt (kW) laser integrated on a Stryker participated in the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Fort Sill, April 5, 2017.A 5 kilowatt (kW) laser integrated on a Stryker participated in the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Fort Sill, April 5, 2017.U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service

  • The US Army is tripling the power on a laser weapon designed to bring down not only rockets and drones but also "more stressing threats," the service revealed recently.
  • The Army is working on a 50-kilowatt laser that will be mounted on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years. The next step was to be a 100-kilowatt laser on a heavy truck, but the Army is skipping that to develop something many times more powerful.
  • The service is planning to develop and deploy a 250-300 kilowatt laser, which Breaking Defense reports will support the Indirect Fires Protection Capability aimed at countering enemy cruise missiles.
  • Such a weapon would provide a cost-effective solution to a growing threat for US warfighters.
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The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even "more stressing threats," the service recently revealed.

The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.

The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.

Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.

The Army declined to clarify whether or not "more stressing threats" included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.

The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.

Read more: The US Army says it will have hypersonic missiles and laser weapons ready for combat in less than 4 years

Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.

"The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars," Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said last month.

"Where before we were shooting $100,000 missiles at $7,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we're not spending that kind of money to do that. We're taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion."

And, the Army isn't the only service trying to develop combat lasers.

The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

Read more: The Air Force blasted missiles out of the sky with a laser that could one day arm fighter jets

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