FARNBOROUGH, Britain – Work on laser, infrared and microwave defensive systems has reached a high level of readiness, with the possibility of deployment close at hand, a Raytheon executive said at the Farnborough Airshow.
Development has advanced on products that can protect troops against mortar rounds, guard against shoulder-launched missiles fired at helicopters and airliners taking off at airports, and dissuade without killing – a non-lethal laser weapon for civil security, Michael Booen, Raytheon vice president of directed energy weapons, told journalists at the show.
A live test of a laser area defense weapon is scheduled at the end of September, in which a 50-kilowatt commercial laser will be tested against several live mortars flying toward a target, he said. A previous static test using a 20-kilowatt laser showed it could neutralize a mortar shell on the ground at more than 500 yards. The laser would be slaved to the Phalanx close-in weapon which relies on a Gatling machine gun. Cost of initial deployment would be less than $40 million.
In the Vigilent Eagle product, a high-powered microwave linked to an infrared sensor from Rafael and a Kongsberg command-and-control system protects aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles, Booen said. The microwave burst was designed to jam and divert a missile, sending the weapon away from the target aircraft.
Raytheon officials said a ground-based system could provide coverage for 72 percent of commercial aviation at a large airport such as LAX for less than $2 billion over 20 years – less than equipping individual aircraft with defensive systems, he said.
For helicopter protection against man-portable missiles, Raytheon has adapted a TRL9 infrared seeker used on its air-to-air missiles. The seeker has been packaged into a 9-pound system which would marry with detectors and lasers from third party makers. The technology is ready to move to practical application, Booen said.
Raytheon has also scaled down a military non-lethal laser to one-third of the power and range to offer to civil security forces. The Silent Guardian weapon uses a transportable millimeter-wave laser to project a beam that causes temporary pain.
The company has delivered two long-range military units to the U.S. government.
By Pierre Tran
Published: 15 Jul 2008
Source: Defense News