We’re all familiar with laser weapons from SciFi movies and novels, but how far away is laser warfare from reality? Very close, if we’re to judge from the recently publicized test run of Rheinmetall Defense‘s 50kW high power laser that can melt through thick armor a kilometer away and shoot tiny mobile targets at twice the distance.
The German company laser is actually comprised of two combined laser modules mounted on Oerlikon Revolver Gun air defense turrets with additional modules for the power supply. Using their Beam Superimposing Technology (BST), the two lasers (20kW and 30Kw respectively) work together to focus on the same target for a combined power output of 50kW that wreaks havoc.
For instance, during a test at the company’s demo ground facility in Switzerland, the laser sliced through a 5mm- (~0.6 inches) thick steel girder from a kilometer away. But this was too easy. In a second run, the laser’s in-built radar was put to the test and used to detect drones nose diving at 50 meters per second (164 ft/s) from 3km away; the drones were then targeted and shot down from 2km away. Next, a crucial feature in the defense system’s projected application (air defense, asymmetric warfare and Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) operations) was also tested: steel balls 82mm in diameter traveling at 50 meters per second, designed to simulate mortar projectiles, were honed in and obliterated instantly.
It’s important to note that performances were in no way altered by weather. In fact demonstrations were carried out with the same success rate during ice, rain, snow and/or extremely bright sunlight.
Only last year Rheinmetall tested a mere 10 kW version, while for next year the company plans on expanding to a 60kW laser and also upgrade the present system so that it can be fitted on top of a military SUV for mobility. If you found this impressive, remember that this information has been publicly handed out to the press and the media and was developed by a rather medium sized defense company; consider then what kind of laser weaponry the likes of China, Russia or the US dispose of, hidden away.