Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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‘Laser Strykers’ Being Tested as Defense against UAVs by US Army

UAV killer

(Photo : US Army) 'Laser Stryker' armed with a 2 kW combat laser (white colored object).

The U.S. Army is rebuilding its long-neglected Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) capability by arming select Stryker armored fighting vehicles with high energy lasers.

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 "Laser Strykers" are armed with a 2 kilowatt laser weapons system called the Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser (MEHEL) to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and incoming mortar rounds.

Strykers, or more accurately the M1126 Stryker ICV (Interim Armored Vehicle), are eight-wheeled armored personnel carriers employed in a variety of roles. Their main role is to serve as armored troop transports for nine soldiers. Other variants are gun vehicles armed with weapons ranging from 30 mm autocannons to 105 mm guns.

Strykers are employed in Stryker Brigade Combat Teams in U.S. Army divisions. There are 300 Strykers in a Stryker BCT.

In a test conducted at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, a Stryker MEHEL took just 15 seconds to acquire, track, engage and shoot down a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), validating the quick reaction time demanded of the weapon.

A laser beam destroys a UAV by heating one of the parts that controls its flight (such as a wing or a rotor) until it melts. One engineer compared the effects of a laser striking a UAV to that of a welding torch.

The army expects to test 30 kW ground based lasers in 2017. The MEHEL program is managed by the Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command.

The army has another laser program called HELMTT or the High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck. This combat laser platform is a 10 kW laser mounted on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.

The army, however, is counting on the armored and more mobile Stryker MEHEL to rebuild its weak SHORAD system neglected since the army turned over its air defense to the U.s. Air Force. The advent of the U.S. military new warfighting concept called the "Multi-Domain Battle," and the recognition combat units in future wars might well fight isolated, has speeding up the need to strengthen SHORAD.

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