Now that pretty much everyone has surveillance drones, the U.S. Marines need to develop a weapon to knock them out of the skies—especially during the critical period when reconnaissance forces are landing on a beach. Faced with a shortage of anti-aircraft missiles, the Marines are looking for a few good lasers.
Currently, Marines serving in Low-Altitude Air Defense battalions are trained to shoot down drones with shoulder-fired, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. But, according to a recent report, Marine stockpiles in 2019 will drop below the 1,081 Stingers mandated by the Pentagon's War Reserve Munitions Requirement.
As the blog, War Is Boring, reports, the Marines hope to augment this shortage with a "ground-based, anti-air directed energy weapon" (GBAD):
The Office of Naval Research has tested some components for the weapon already, and wants to carry out field experiments with a 10-kilowatt laser later this year. In two years time, it wants to triple the laser's power to 30 kilowatts. Eventually, the Marines want the entire weapon to weigh less than 2,000 pounds and fit inside a Humvee and its replacement, the still-in-development Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
The Navy is working on lasers for ships, as well. The sailing service plans to deploy one aboard the transport ship USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf this year. But ground-based lasers are trickier. Energy weapons require a lot of power, and you're relying on small vehicles instead of huge warships to lug the weapon and power supply around. High altitudes also lower combustion pressures, which makes generators work less efficiently.
If the Marines want to zap drones in the mountains, it'll have to make some trade offs. You don't want a glorified flashlight, but a laser that is too powerful to work up high isn't much better.
[h/t War is Boring]