Laser Weapon -- The "Light Bomb" That Subverts the Future War

Laser weapons have become the commanding heights of the next military field with their advantages of fast attack speed, high lethality, fast target conversion speed, no loading, strong anti-electromagnetic interference capability and low launch cost. As a subversive technology, laser weapon has great potential to change the future form of war. Once miniaturized and actualized, it will have a subversive impact on tactics, methods of war and forms of war. Whoever can seize the opportunity will have the power to win the next generation of war.



In the Hollywood blockbuster Star Wars, an armored exoskeleton warrior shoots a powerful beam of light at his enemies with a laser gun that can rip through their armor and detonate vehicles and aircraft. The ZKZM-500 laser gun produced by a Chinese company, which can damage targets nearly one kilometer away, has good portability and platform adaptability. This means that the Star Wars sci-fi scenario of fighting with laser guns is becoming a reality. The ZKZM-500 emits lasers that are not visible to the naked eye and do not produce any sound, making it difficult for the target to detect where the attack is coming from, and can be used for covert special operations operations.



Not only laser guns, "laser cannons" have also become a reality. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) successfully test-fired its Self-Protection High-energy Laser Demonstrator (Shield) laser gun at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, shooting down multiple missiles in flight. "This is an important step toward a directed energy system that can be used to defend against adversary threats," said the lab's commander. The system will eventually be installed on the fighter aircraft, used to shoot down its airspace surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles."According to the plan, the U.S. military will carry high-energy experimental laser weapons with power greater than 10 kW on fourth-generation fighters such as F-15 in 2021. At that time, F-15 will become the world's first fighter equipped with laser weapons. A high-powered experimental laser weapon with a power of more than 100 kilowatts will be installed on the 6th generation fighter jet around 2029.



In the future, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will appear in a cluster over the battlefield. In the face of the sudden attack of dense UAV "swarm", there will be no countermeasures. At the present stage, countries are competing to develop "anti-UAV laser weapons" to respond to "asymmetric attack" with "asymmetric means" and "flash warfare" to respond to "blitzkrieg".

In May 2019, an American company announced that it was developing an "anti-UAV laser weapon system". The system uses optical and infrared sensors to intercept the locked target. Once the system has locked the target, the operator can verify the intercept and send a high-energy laser beam to destroy the target. "Anything you can see with the naked eye, or even through binoculars, it can kill," the company says. The laser weapon is designed to hit drones weighing 20 to 55 pounds (9 to 24 kilograms) and can hit up to 30 drone targets for four hours on a single charge. In addition, the system can be mounted on all-wheel-drive SUVs, allowing fighters to penetrate areas where enemy drones are operating.



On July 20, 2018, the Russian military unveiled its new Perestwaite truck-mounted laser weapon, which consists of integrated laser launchers mounted on two large trailers and command/support vehicles, and can intercept up to 20 ballistic missiles at a time, according to the Russian side. The Russian army has established a special laser anti-missile battalion based on the "Perestwaite" truck-mounted laser weapon, becoming the first established laser anti-missile force in the world. According to Russian media reports, the laser complex "Pereswaite" has been put on trial combat duty on December 1, 2018.



At present, laser anti-missile weapons are still in the experimental stage and will not replace traditional anti-aircraft missiles. Once laser anti-missile weapons are miniaturized and capable of producing enough power, conventional missiles will be on their way out. No matter the laser anti-missile weapons are mounted on land, sea or air based platforms, the missile cannot break through the laser protective net, and will be destroyed by the "speed of light" at a long distance.

The essence of laser weapons is light. When laser is propagated in the atmosphere, it will be refracted by atmospheric turbulence and the uneven cooling and heat of the atmosphere. Particles and water vapor in the air will make it fade, seriously interfering with its energy and range. Laser weapon generation device is relatively large and very precise, and needs large vehicle to carry, battlefield reliability is low. Future laser weapons will be greatly improved in terms of laser generation efficiency, miniaturization and battlefield reliability.

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