Air Force Drones May Fire Laser Weapons

The New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing conducted their first MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flying operation from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base and Syracuse Hancock International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Defense Department photo/Eric Miller)The New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing conducted their first MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flying operation from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base and Syracuse Hancock International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Defense Department photo/Eric Miller)

Air Force drones will one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is already working on a program to develop laser weapons for manned aircraft to arm cargo planes and fighter jets by the mid-2020s.  When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.

In an interview with Scout Warrior, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.

Read the rest of the story at Scout Warrior.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • John

    Geez soon all the troops will want one, I know I would. Hey new guy carry this for me.

  • Yellow Devil

    I figure every creature deserves a warm meal…

  • ratt

    Given the space and weight constraints of a predator, I assume this is primarily for targeting individuals and disabling light non-armored vehicles.

  • Visitor

    They Predator already has a laser target designator on board. All the have to do is switch it from 110 to 220!

  • ken

    Will it have a self destruct mode?

  • steve

    The advances in solid-state lasers, it makes sense. The lasers can keep firing without using any ammo. So, the more targets it can take out without dropping ordinance, the longer it can loiter around the target area and not need rearming.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “The lasers can keep firing without using any ammo.” – Yes and no. Power to the laser has to come from somewhere, and that power supply is going to be limited. As an example, one option is batteries or capacitors that in turn are charged from an engine-mounted generator. This means that using the laser increases fuel consumption, which reduces loiter time and/or limits the number of “shots” the laser can take.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

      • steve

        Still, a lot better than a limited amount of traditional weapons.

        • blight_

          We can’t speculate on utility until we have a product, tradeoffs and all, before us. It may not be fair to compare a laser against a Hellfire at the moment, but if a Predator can mount a solid-state laser on each wing and cook someone’s eyeballs out of their eye sockets from a few miles away, it becomes a potent battlefield effect. Especially if you can cook out many eyeballs, versus a Predator carrying 8 hellfires and running out of missiles. But again, this depends on the tradeoffs made at the engineering stage and a comparison of product to product (which isn’t representative of the capability of drone-carried missiles or drone carried lasers as a whole)

  • stephen russell

    Or add Lasers to whole new drone type plane alone for use.

  • RadRat

    Blinding someone on the battlefield is against the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.
    Except for as allowed for under Article 3. So, if the enemy has binoculars, or optical sights on their weapons, it allowed.

    Chinese have already done this to our satellites, and the Russians IIRC have done this to some of our pilots.