The United States military has a reputation for staying on the cutting edge of weaponry, as evidenced by a recent, futuristic development on an already-powerful U.S. Army aircraft.
Raytheon — a defense technology company — bolted a laser to an Apache AH-64 helicopter on Monday and successfully zapped an unmanned target, according to The Washington Post.
Although the company did not say what the target was, the helicopter’s laser was able to “direct energy” on it from nearly a mile away at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The test marked the first time a “fully integrated laser system” was able to successfully locate and shoot a target from a rotary-wing aircraft “over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds,” the company said in a statement.
— Raytheon (@Raytheon) June 26, 2017
In conducting the test, Raytheon used a version of the Multi-Spectral Targeting System — an electro-optical infrared sensor — with the laser.
This new development could open up new avenues for our defense mechanisms, as laser weapons provide a unique ability to launch an attack without being heard or seen.
Matthew Ketner, branch chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate in Virginia, explained that lasers also have a near-perfectly straight trajectory, unlike the arc of an artillery round, according to the Pentagon.
This allows the laser to be more more accurate in finding its target than the usual 30mm machine gun and hellfire missiles employed by the Apache.
Not to mention one other obvious perk of using a laser instead of guns.
“Lasers don’t run out of bullets,” Ketner said.
While the recent test was successful, there are still obstacles to overcome before the Apache lasers are officially added to our defense arsenal.
Laser weapons use a lot of energy and have a hard time breaking through dust, smoke, and haze, according to Business Insider.
But, if our military’s past success in weapons development is any indication, it’s a reasonable bet that those problems will be taken care of very soon.
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