US Navy fits warships with powerful lasers capable of destroying drones | World | News


The US and Iran have been trading combative rhetoric since May, sparking fears that conflict is imminent between the two nations. With any war likely to be fought in the air or sea, according to expert Dr Paul Stott, the US appears to be upgrading their arsenal in preparation for battle. While American warships are already stacked with hi-tech weaponry, this next upgrade will boost US offensive capacity even further.

The High-Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-Dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) can surveil, track and destroy targets anywhere – whether they are a drone or a warship.

The Navy has been testing the lasers against mock ground targets in preparation for the weapon’s full rollout in 2021.

It is generally intended to deal with numerous attacks from smaller, quicker vessels at close range.

However, the HELIOS can also sense incoming attacks from further away than traditional machinery.

This makes it easier for commanders to decide an appropriate response as they, according to HELIOS Programme Director Brendan Scanlon, receive “real-time operating feedback well in advance, before the system hits the ship”.

Developers also enabled the laser system to obscure enemies’ optical sensors, meaning it could throw off drone fire, anti-ship missiles or helicopter attacks.

HELIOS will also be wired up to missile defence system Aegis Radar, and both will be used to gather surveillance data while simultaneously striking any targets.

Mr Scanlon said: “Sensors provide cues to laser weapons, with the Aegis operator in the loop.

“You can use optical sensors to decide what else you are going to do, because the weapon tracks between Aegis and the laser subsystem.”

The development of HELIOS as a combined sensor and shooter appeared to be foreshadowed in the “Journal of Directed Energy” written in 2003.

Authors Roger McGinnis and Alred Skolnick wrote: “Being able to visually identify a target from imagery at the engagement range of the weapon is a significant improvement over conventional weapons systems.”

The weapon could be utilised in narrow sea stretches such as the Strait of Hormuz.

Off the coast of Iran, the key trading passageway has been the flashpoint for possible conflict after two oil tankers were attacked last month.

The US blamed Iran with little evidence – sparking threats from Tehran that they will close the route.

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