In 2022, Stryker combat vehicles will be armed with 50-kilowatt lasers that can shoot down enemy drones, missiles, and artillery and mortar rounds.
Soon, vehicle-mounted lasers and hypersonic missiles will no longer be confined to the realm of science fiction. The US Army stated that it will field these advanced weapons in the next four years to compete with rivals such as Russia or China.
The first step is includes 50-kilowatt directed energy weapons that will be equipped onto Stryker combat vehicles in 2022. Mobile Long-Range Hypersonic Weapons (LRHWs) will follow in 2023, Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) director Army Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood told Breaking Defense.
Field testing for the 50-kilowatt vehicle-mounted laser will begin in 2021. It is designed to shoot down enemy drones, rockets, and artillery and mortar rounds. A battery of four vehicles equipped with the weapon is scheduled to be delivered to troops the following year.
A separate project involving the development of a heavy truck-mounted 100-kilowatt laser is also in the works, but must overcome challenges involved with generating that much energy.
In the meantime, RCCTO is currently overseeing the development of a common boost-glide vehicle for its hypersonic missiles. These vehicles can travel five times the speed of sound, and they may be incorporated into submarine- and air-launched hypersonic weapons for the Navy and Air Force. Joint flight tests for hypersonic weapons are expected to begin next year, followed by flight tests every six months.
If all goes according to plan, these weapons will be able to target critical strategic targets such as fixed site radars from extremely long distances. This would make it easier to disable vital components of an enemy’s anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) system, according to a source speaking to Business Insider.
The US Army intends to spend about $1.2 billion on experiments to counter Russia and China, both of which are developing hypersonic weapons of their own. Hypersonic weapons are especially threatening because they’re both fast and capable of maneuvering along unpredictable flight paths, making them almost impossible to intercept.