Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR FEB 2015 Contents 37
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 06 | FEB 2015
Demonstrator Phase II program will involve installation of a 50-
60kW laser on HEL MD to demonstrate engagement capabilities
at this tactically significant power level.
HEL MD is mounted on an 8x8 Oshkosh Heavy Expanded
Mobility Tactical Truck and requires just two crew members.
ADAM TACKLES AREA THREATS
In May 2014, Lockheed Martin’s prototype Area Defense Anti-
Munitions (ADAM) system successfully disabled two rigid hull
inflatable boats at a range of approximately 1.6km to demonstrate
effectiveness against maritime asymmetric targets.
ADAM is a transportable, ground-based laser weapon system
designed as an affordable measure against short-range threats
such as Qassam-like rockets, UAVs and small watercraft.
ADAM can precisely track moving targets at a range of more
than 5km, and its 10kW fibre laser can engage targets up to 2km
away. Integrated in a container mounted on a trailer, the system
couples commercial hardware components with Lockheed
Martin’s laser beam control architecture and software for
reduced technical risk and cost, along with a virtually unlimited
‘magazine’ and a low cost per engagement.
A year before the maritime tests, ADAM successfully
demonstrated its capability against rocket attacks, destroying
eight Qassam-like rockets at a range of 1.5km (see the embedded
Separately, General Atomics is building two 150kW laser
weapon systems under the US Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA) High Energy Liquid Laser Area
Defense Systems (HELLADS) program.
The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150kW laser
weapon system that is 10 times smaller and lighter than current
lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft
to defend against and defeat ground threats. With a weight goal
adversaries’ vessel or aircraft, we could, if it came to self-defence,”
Rear Adm Klunder continued. “ The reality is, it’s ready.”
LaWS remains installed on USS Ponce and is at the disposal of
the ship’s captain for employment.
The ONR is also pushing ahead with development of its Ground
Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-the-Move
program for the US Marine Corps. GBAD will field an affordable
alternative to conventional weapon systems for use against UAVs.
The GBAD system is palletised, platform agnostic and provides
a ruggedised, deployable laser weapon system that can be cued by
radar capable of detecting low radar cross-section threats. It will
be able to perform hard kills of UAVs to prevent reconnaissance,
surveillance, targeting and acquisition of expeditionary forces.
Comprising a laser, lightweight reflective beam director,
lithium ion batteries, radar, communications, command
and control sub-systems and phase-change material cooling
systems that are sufficiently light and compact enough to enable
mounting on light tactical vehicles such as the High Mobility
Multi-Wheeled Vehicle and variants of the Joint Light Tactical
In August 2014, ONR awarded a US$11 million (AUD$14.1
million) contract to Raytheon for development of GBAD based
on its planar waveguide (PWG) technology approach to high
energy lasers. The GBAD laser will have a minimum power
output of 25kW.
Using a single PWG, the size and shape of a 30cm ruler, the
company’s lasers generate sufficient power to effectively engage
Conceptual rendering of the GBAD system mounted on a representative JLTV platform, including accompanying on-the-move command,
control and communications and search radar elements. Image: ONR
The Boeing HEL MED system as seen mounted on a high-mobility
tactical truck. Images: Boeing
HELLADS is designed for installation on a broad spectrum of
tactical aircraft. Image: DARPA
The threat posed by both swarm and single digit attacks by long-range
precision weapons – namely anti-ship missiles and ballistic missiles – is
driving the requirement to find better means of defending maritime assets
and land-based forces against such attacks.
Although yet to materialise, the anticipated threat from large numbers
of low-cost weaponised UAVs is seen as an ideal target set for laser
weapons, as are asymmetric threats in the littoral from small boat attacks.
The laser weapon’s high precision, scalability, deployability and
magazine capacity ensure it is well suited to operating as defensive
weapon systems against such threats.
Laser weapons also cost less to build, install and fire than traditional
kinetic weapons such as missiles. A very small fraction of the cost, in
fact. The ONR’s LaWS for instance, provides capability at less than a
dollar per shot.
As laser weapons run on electricity they also bring improved safety
for ships and crews compared to the traditional explosive propellant and
gunpowder-based ordnance found on ships.
LOW COST, VERSATILE, ENDLESS AMMO
Raytheon’s PWG laser architecture is scalable, enabling
development of increasingly higher power levels with the same
compact design being used for GBAD.
Initial testing of GBAD commenced in late 2014 using a 10kW
laser, and is a precursor to the planned integration of a full-
size 30kW laser. More advanced trials and field testing from
candidate mobility platforms will commence in 2016. The five-
year development plan will culminate in on-the-move, end-to-
end engagement of UAV targets in 2017.
The year 2014 also saw Boeing and the US Army emphatically
demonstrate the capabilities of the High Energy Laser Mobile
Demonstrator (HEL MD) as a counter rocket, artillery and
mortar weapon system during tests at Eglin Air Force Base,
Sporting a 10kW high energy laser, the HEL MD successfully
engaged more than 150 aerial targets, including 60mm mortar
rounds and UAVs.
Follow-on testing to be conducted under the HEL Technology
AT A GLANCE
GBAD – HOW DOES IT WORK?
GBAD’s volumetric search radar locates UAV targets of interest and
passes the information to the command, control and communications
The C3 platforms analyse of the threat and pass the radar information
to the laser platform, which then locates and begins tracking the UAV
utilising a day/night capable sensor system. This then allows the C3
platform to perform visual confirmation and aim point selection. If a kill
decision is made, the threat is lased until destruction.
of less than 5kg per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic metres
for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers
to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing
engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.
According to General Atomics, the HELLADS program has
completed the design and demonstration of a revolutionary
subscale high-energy laser that supports the goal of a lightweight
and compact high-energy laser weapon system. An objective
unit cell laser module with integrated power and thermal
management is being designed and fabricated and will
demonstrate an output power of less than 34kW. A test cell that
represents one-half of the unit cell laser has been fabricated and
used to characterise system losses and diode performance and
reliability. The test cell is being expanded to a unit cell.
Based on the results of the unit cell demonstration, additional
laser modules will be fabricated to produce a 150kW laser that
will be demonstrated in a laboratory environment. The 150kW
laser then will be integrated with an existing beam control
capability to produce a laser weapon system demonstrator. The
capability to shoot down tactical targets such as surface-to-air
missiles and rockets during simulated air-to-ground offensive
missions is planned for demonstration at the White Sands
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