Boeing researchers have demonstrated that the company’s laser weapon system can destroy improvised explosive devices while mounted to a combat vehicle.
The Laser Avenger, which Boeing has been developing for the past three years, neutralized 50 IEDs during September tests in Huntsville, Ala. The same system shot aerial drones from the sky during testing in 2008.
Boeing is touting the Avenger as a way for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to eliminate IED threats without leaving their vehicles or waiting for explosive ordnance disposal teams to arrive. In Huntsville, developers tested the laser, which was mounted to a humvee, against large-caliber artillery munitions, as well as smaller bombs and mortar rounds. The product plugs into a vehicle’s alternator, meaning that it’s mainly powered by gasoline. This is a potential concern because of the high cost of transporting fuel to Afghanistan, though Boeing contends the laser won’t significantly affect fuel consumption.
Last month, the company announced it would be integrating the system into an OshKosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.
The Avenger shoots a concentrated beam of light that heats up IEDs and, within one minute, causes them to “pop” or “fizzle,” according to a statement from Boeing spokesman Marc Selinger. It destroys targets with a “low-yield” detonation, the statement says. Company officials declined to comment on the laser.
“Once a target has been sighted, or a GPS coordinate of the target has been provided to the Avenger, the laser system will ‘zoom in’ on the target, paint the target with a designator beam and, only after positive identification, fire the high-energy laser,” the statement says. “If funded, a system like this could be fielded within one year.”
The Defense Department’s Joint IED Defeat Organization sponsored the evaluation.