13 Sep 2023
15 kW laser, said to be ready for operations, is designed to counter aerial threats such as hostile drones.
Raytheon’s UK subsidiary says it is about to receive the first laser weapon in the country, and will integrate it onto a patrol vehicle next month.
Announced during the “DSEI 2023” defense industry event taking place in London this week, the development is said to mark a significant advancement in the understanding of how directed energy systems can be fielded.
Now known as “RTX”, Raytheon has been closely involved in the development of weapons based on fiber laser sources for several years. It says that the 15 kW system heading to the UK is “operationally ready”, and that it will be integrated onto one of the British Army’s “Wolfhound” patrol vehicles during October as part of a contract agreed in 2021.
The weapon is intended to counter aerial threats, notably those presented by drones, and its fielding represents the latest development in the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) Land Demonstrator program.
The development also coincides with the official opening of Raytheon UK’s new laser integration center in Livingston, Scotland, which the firm announced just over a year ago.
The center will host testing, fielding, and maintenance of Raytheon’s laser weapons, acting as a regional hub established to ensure that laser weapons can be quickly fielded, maintained, and repaired.
Julie Finlayson-Odell, managing director of weapons and sensors at Raytheon UK, said in a company release:
“The arrival of this transformative technology is an important milestone in our collaboration with the MoD on using directed energy to address a variety of threats, from drones and UAVs to more complex missile systems.
“This system is a culmination of decades of investment, research and innovation and its arrival reflects our continued commitment to help fulfil a key strategic objective of the UK’s Integrated Review, which is to understand how directed energy weapons can safely and effectively operate alongside other elements of the UK’s armed forces.”
According to the firm, the high-energy laser weapon system has performed as intended in multiple field tests, including in difficult weather conditions such as extreme heat, cold, rain, sleet and snow.
During four days of live-fire exercises that took place in the US earlier this year, it is said to have successfully acquired, tracked, targeted and destroyed dozens of drone targets in short-range attack, swarm attack, and long-range threat scenarios.
Hostile drones watch out!— Raytheon UK (@Raytheon_UK) September 13, 2023
Raytheon UK today announces it is set to receive its first high-energy laser (HEL) weapon system to be tested and integrated in the UK.
Read more>> https://t.co/5dfchhbL5i#DSEI23 pic.twitter.com/zzws8mIX7Z
While much higher-power laser weapons are in advanced development, the 15 kW system is compact and portable, can be installed on a variety of platforms, and connects to other air defense systems easily, says Raytheon UK.
“With [a] deep, rechargeable magazine and minimal logistics, this laser weapon is an affordable and viable option to protect military and critical infrastructure, and rapidly defeat threats,” reports the firm.
“The system offers a nearly infinite number of shots and precision accuracy with very low collateral damage, making it an affordable alternative to traditional munitions.”
In the US, eight of the laser weapons have been delivered for military use, and are said to have defeated more than 400 targets over 25,000 operational hours.
In June, RTX said that it had delivered a 10 kW laser weapon small enough to fit in the bed of a pick-up truck to the US Air Force, also to combat drone attacks.