The laser is emerging out of the realm of sci-fi to debut in combat. For the first time, coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to unleash the technology’s vast potential to combat the threat of insurgent missile and rocket attacks.
Signalling a revolution in military hardware, India too can grab a slice of that technology with the US proposing to equip the navy’s second-largest warship INS Jalashwa with a new generation laser system that would enable it to blast enemy missiles in the sky.
The new weapon can easily be mounted alongside the Jalashwa’s Phalanx close-in weapon system for shooting down incoming targets at the speed of light, claimed US defence firm Raytheon that has found military application for the laser. The Phalanx currently uses advanced radar and computer technology to locate, identify and direct a stream of 20 mm armour-piercing projectiles to the target.
Admiral Walter F. Doran (retd), head of Raytheon’s Asia business, told HT at the Farnborough international airshow that the laser system slaved to the Phalanx would significantly enhance the Jalashwa’s defence capabilities to decimate incoming threats. Installed on all US combatant ships, the Phalanx provides a warship last-chance defence against anti-ship missiles and close-in-air and surface threats that may have penetrated other fleet defences.
The reason British MoD and US military want to equip their forces with laser power is the obvious advantages it enjoys over bullets — the laser can shoot forever as long as there is electricity.
The laser discharges energy beams to destroy targets. Raytheon’s chief of directed energy systems Mike Booen said this new breed of weaponry, labeled “directed-energy weapons”, could be adopted for ground, air and sea warfare. Land-based Phalanx systems are on the verge of being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The laser has already been tested for its capability to destroy 60 mm mortars.