Likely in preparation for the coming swarm of cheap, ubiquitous drones at home and abroad, the US Navy is looking at taking on pesky unmanned aircraft with one of its favorite but not-quite-there-yet weapons: lasers.
As part of a new research program revealed today, the Navy says it wants to equip Humvees and other ground vehicles with laser weapons to shoot missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky. It's a technology the Navy has been toying with (and hyping) for a while now. Initial tests had managed to burn through a small boat's outboard motor — albeit very slowly. Further attempts using Raytheon's modified MK-15 Phalanx successfully took out a number of small-sized drones at sea, with the eventual goal being to fry targets at 20 feet of solid steel per second.
They're not quite there yet, however, as there are a few problems. For one, laser cannons are huge, so the Navy has to figure out how to get one to weigh less than 2,500 pounds and fit onto a truck along with a power source that operates with at least 25 to 50 kilowatts, and have it able to work in a variety of different climates. There's also the problem of cooling the battery to prevent the vehicle itself from losing power or burning up, and of course the potentially much larger hurdle of the sequestration that's finally crunching military budgets across the board. Either way, the Navy has repeatedly declared its desire to develop these energy weapons both on land and at sea, and it's aiming to move the first round of pew-pews out into the field sometime this year.