US Air Force successfully tests anti-missile laser defence system

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The US Air Force has successfully tested a laser weapon system capable of shooting multiple missiles while they are in flight.

The ground-based laser weapon system, a prototype for a weapon which is intended to be mounted on fighter jets, was successfully tested at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on April 23.

The series of tests was run by the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) as part of its Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) Program. During the tests the demonstrator laser weapon system engaged and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.

The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air (SAM) and air-to-air (AAM) missiles.

Kelly Hammett, director of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate said, “This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters.”

The test of the SHiELD system validates the effectiveness of lasers against target missiles, said the AFRL. Engineers on the project will now work to make the final SHiELD system much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.

Major General William Cooley, AFRL commander said, “The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats.

“The ability to shoot down missiles with speed of light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”

High energy laser technology, directed energy weapons and ways to defend against them have been in development by militaries around the world for several decades. Many believe, including the US AFRL, that they will be a “game changing technology” for air forces.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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