U.S. Air Force tests microwave, laser weapon systems

The U.S. Air Force announced it is planning future experiments involving laser and microwave energy weapons after recent successes in testing sessions.

Use of a laser, fired at an aerial target from the dome in the rear of the vehicle seen here, is part of the experiments in directed energy by the U.S. Air Force at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force
Use of a laser, fired at an aerial target from the dome in the rear of the vehicle seen here, is part of the experiments in directed energy by the U.S. Air Force at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force

Future experiments in the Directed Energy Experimentation Campaign are planned at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the Air Force said Tuesday in a statement.
The tests by the 704th Test Group, essentially the use of microwaves or lasers to bring down aerial targets, come after a first successful experiment in October.

The experiments offer better understanding of the capabilities of off-the-shelf high-power microwave and high energy laser systems against targets, according to the Air Force.

“The test scenario was air base defense against small unmanned aerial systems,” said John Cao, director of the Directed Energy Combined Task Force. “Two industry systems, one high power microwave and one high energy laser, were evaluated, with more than 220 vertical-lift and fixed-wing UAS [unmanned aerial systems] sorties flown as threats.”

“Valuable data were collected to address the experiment’s objective,” Cao said. “Now we’re in the planning stages of conducting more DE experiments.”

In October, the Air Force contracted with Ball Aerospace and Technologies to provide solid state laser effects and modeling services.

Publicly acknowledged tests of laser-style weapons have been conducted at the White Sands Missile Range since at least 2009.

ByEd Adamczyk