Air Defense: Avenger Gets A Bigger Laser

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January 28, 2009: The U.S. has developed a mobile laser weapon for shooting down enemy UAVs. Unfortunately, none of our current opponents use many, if any, UAVs. This all began two years ago, when the U.S. put together an Avenger anti-aircraft system equipped with a one KW (kilowatt) laser. Back in late 2007, this rig was able to destroy two small UAVs on the ground. Apparently it took some time before a more powerful 2 KW laser could be found, that would fit on the Avenger turret, for use against airborne UAVs. The 1 KW laser was able to detonate IEDs and unexploded ordnance (shells and bombs). This, however, proved to be a solution for a problem that simply didn't show up very often.

The U.S. Army originally developed the Avenger system as a mobile anti-aircraft system. It's basically a hummer armed with Stinger surface-to-air missiles, a .50 caliber machinegun, radar and laser range finder. The hummer has a turret mounted on the back that contains two missile pods (each containing four Stinger anti-aircraft missiles). Under one pod there is an M3P .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine gun. The one KW laser was added to the turret.

The Avenger has a number of other quirks that limit its usefulness. The machine-gun can't be depressed sufficiently to fire at ground targets towards the front of the vehicle. The Stinger has a range of 4.5 kilometers, but the U.S. Army has not encountered enemy aircraft on the battlefield for over half a century. It's uncertain if enemy UAVs would be "hot" enough for the heat seeking Stinger to detect and home in on. Smaller UAVs are battery powered, and definitely run pretty cool. Larger ones use motors more like those found on lawnmowers or motorcycles. Effective range of the .50 caliber machine-gun is about two kilometers, and that could be used to take down enemy UAVs that flew close enough.

No information was released on the effective range of the laser 2 KW laser against airborne UAVs. This usually indicates that the performance was not particularly impressive (as in a range of only a kilometers or so). An improved set of sensors had to be installed in order to find the small UAVs that the 2 KW laser could damage sufficiently to bring down.

It appears that Laser Avenger is yet another laser weapon with potential, but not enough effectiveness to be useful on the battlefield. This has been the case with several recent laser weapons. But these systems have been getting more powerful, so it's only a matter of time before they are ready to displace some older weapon on the battlefield .

 


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