Scalable laser module fits Avenger UAV
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has improved upon the laser technology matured under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to create a tactical laser weapon module capable of deploying on an AC-130 gunship or V-22 Osprey.
The company displayed a mockup of the laser module at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition in National Harbor, MD, this week. Company officials claim the module was designed for carriage in the internal weapons bay of the Predator C Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle, but is easily reconfigurable to deploy on a tactical AC-130 or V-22 aircraft, and even a guided missile destroyer or Army ground vehicle.
The high-energy laser technology inside the weapon module is the product of two military programs: DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) and the Defense Department’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI). In fact, the HELLADS program is due to conclude later this year with a series of 150 kilowatt laser test shots at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
In an April 14 interview with Inside the Air Force, General Atomics’ chief laser engineer, Jim Davis, said the laser is scalable to 300 kilowatt, and has evolved from the HELLADS and RELI programs through internal investments.
Davis said the laser system has applications for the Air Force, Navy and Army, but which service carries the technology forward depends on who “writes the first check.” The design has been proposed for the Office of Naval Research’s Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program and the Army’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. The Air Force is pursuing airborne lasers to destroy missiles and ground-based electrical equipment like radars.