US Army Planning on Integrating Anti-Drone Lasers on New Squad Vehicles

August 15, 2022

Drones on the battlefield are hardly a new concern. Depending on where you draw the line on defining just what constitutes a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, well, the first attack is generally attributed to have occurred in 1849, though an argument could be made for much earlier episodes using incendiary balloons.

Now advances in electronics has meant that UAVs have gotten both smaller and more sophisticated. Already, many militaries have begun to employ extremely small drones for conducting reconnaissance. But they have also rapidly began to evolve to the point where these devices are extremely dangerous.

Classified as “loitering weapons”, these small drones are often directed by digital camera feeds to a target where they employ a fragmentation charge to directly attack enemy personnel and infrastructure. These types of weapons have already been used to great effect in conflicts such as the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020, as well as heavy usage by both sides in the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The impact of the UAV means that now we are beginning to see them integrated into combat vehicle design. Additionally, the increasing sophistication of coding means that more and more, these weapons can act autonomously. Indeed, the UN reports that they believe that the first cases of humans being hunted down and killed by drones acting without human intervention has already occurred – check out my video on that if you are interested, link will be at the end.

But the explosion in cheap civilian drones, many of them literally toys that a child can fly, has meant these sorts of devices have been having a greater impact on military operations. For anti-government and rebel forces, drones are now a cheap, simple and highly effective method for attacking conventional military units.

This is something that has been very graphically demonstrated in Burma, where the anti-junta forces have been quick adopters and developers of civilian drones for usage against regime forces. And it is not just in the hands of lightly equipped irregular forces where the value of converted civilian drones is being appreciated and exploited.

In Ukraine, both the Ukrainians and the Russians are making heavy use of hobby shop drones, using them extensively for reconnaissance and highly precise targeting with improvised dropped explosives.

 

The Ukrainians have even taken to using fishing bait bombs to hold live grenades that then detonate once they hit the target.

All of this has even led one drone developer, Taiwan-based DronesVision, to develop their Revolver Drone. This carries a rotating dispenser that can hold and drop six 60mm mortar bombs.

Naturally, the proliferation of these comparatively cheap and simple weapons is causing a huge amount of concern amongst conventional military forces, and an array of different technologies are being trialled or employed to attempt to counter the threat represented by such weapons.

But the United States Army are certainly not messing about. In the next few weeks they intend to receive their first short-range air defence laser system. This, the Directed Energy-Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) is a 50-kilowatt laser mounted on a Stryker chassis and is expected to be able to shoot down any UAV weighing up to 1,320lbs (c.600kgs).

The DE M-SHORAD will also be capable of defending friendly forces from artillery shells and rockets, as well as incoming mortar fire. Indeed, the weapon has demonstrated its abilities to counter incoming fire in testing, and no doubt as the first vehicles deploy with field units these capabilities will continue to be refined and expanded.

But the DE M-SHORAD will likely be an expensive and comparatively scarce item, probably akin in deployment to self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. With the threat of weaponised civilian drones being so mainstream, the US Army is looking for a much more convenient counter UAV system, one which can be deployed in much greater numbers at lower tactical levels.

So, they have recently announced the start of the Army Multipurpose High Energy Laser, or AMP-HEL, project. This will integrate a 20-kilowatt laser onto the chassis of the new GM Defense Infantry Squad Vehicles that are now coming into service with the US Army’s Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

This will enable the AMP-HEL to shoot down drones of up to 55lbs in weight, which would include practically all civilian and military tactical reconnaissance drones, as well as loitering munitions.

And to give an indication of how serious the US Army is taking the situation they expect to have prototypes ready for testing and assessment by next year. Should the system prove successful, it should be expected that they will be deployed in some numbers.

Sources/Related Reading:

We May Have the First Case of a Robot Deliberately Killing Humans

SHiELD – The US Air Force New Laser Pod That Will Shoot Down Missiles

How did Azerbaijan Identify Armenian Air Defences? By Letting Them Shoot Down Their Aircraft! – Video

Improvised Weapons of the Myanmar PDFs

Nay Myo Zin; Former Myanmar Officer Turned Resistance Fighter

Nay Myo Zin; Former Myanmar Officer Turned Resistance Fighter

Very fortunate to be able to conduct a remote Q+A session with Nay Myo Zin, a former Myanmar Army officer who then went on to work as a democracy activist, spending long periods in jail before recently joining the anti-junta resistance forces in Burma.

The Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair; Oddjob Favorite

The Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair; Oddjob Favorite

I think it is fair to say that for most Brits, the cross-channel ferry trip is something of an institution. For generations they have enjoyed the occasional trip to the continent to stock up on interesting food items and, more generally, cheap alcohol and tobacco....

Myanmar Army Shows Cracks as Suddenly Announces Conscription

Myanmar Army Shows Cracks as Suddenly Announces Conscription

In a move that gives indication of the stress it is under, the military junta running the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has announced that they are instituting universal conscription for all males between the ages of 18 and 35, and women aged between 18 to...

The Vickers Warwick; Life Saver

The Vickers Warwick; Life Saver

In my previous article on the Bristol Buckingham I mentioned that before even the start of World War Two, the British had recognised that the aircraft they had in service were going to be outdated in short order. Nothing special there, it was (and pretty much still...

The Bristol Buckingham;  Late and Outclassed

The Bristol Buckingham; Late and Outclassed

When the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command entered the Second World War in September 1939 , they essentially had two types of bomber in service; light ones for tactical use supporting the army and bigger, longer ranged one for uses in, for want of a better term,...