Directed energy weapons, like hypersonic weapons, constitute two absolute technological priorities for the American armies in recent years in an attempt to catch up with the technological dynamic imposed by Beijing and Moscow. If hypersonic programs encounter problems, the programs of the US Army, the US Navy and the US Air Force concerning the short-term implementation of anti-drone, anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems based on Directed energy weapons are advancing in accordance with the very ambitious planning imposed by the Pentagon . Thus, last week, the US Army announced that a first engagement test "in a combat situation" had been carried out earlier in the summer at the Fort Sill site in Oklahoma, with the joint use of two new Stryker armored vehicles, each equipped with a 50 Kw laser system.
The objective of these tests, which apparently satisfied the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) , and the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, made it possible to validate the use of the Directed Energy-Maneuver Short- Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, facing different types of threat including Rockets, Artillery and Mortar shells, classically grouped under the acronym RAM. These successes allow the RCCTO to maintain the objective of delivering 4 DE M-SHORAD in 2022 in the form of a protection squad intended to validate its operational use, but also to define the training protocols for the personnel who will be in charge of implement them. Remember that at the same time, the US Army is also developing a second program called Indirect Fires Protection Capability – High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) composed of a 300 Kw laser mounted on a truck, whose mission will be to intercept cruise missiles , but also helicopters and heavy munitions, by 2024.
The feat achieved around the DE M-SHORAD program by the RCCTO is remarkable in more than one way. Not only did they manage to load a 50 Kw laser onto a cramped vehicle like the Stryker, 10 times more powerful than the model previously tested which could only take on light drones, but they also managed to resolve the thorny problem of energy supply in a vehicle that is cramped to say the least, and not designed for this, and this in a record stint of only 24 months. The US Air Force is not to be outdone, since a few weeks ago it began wind tunnel tests of the pod hosting a laser of “several tens of kilowatts” at the Aerodynamics Branch of Arnold Engineering Development Complex test center. (AEDC) at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee. This system, known under the designation Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD , aims to produce a Hard-Kill laser self-defense pod for fighters like the F-15, in order to intercept and destroy surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles targeting the aircraft.
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