The U.S. Army Has Spent Billions of Dollars on Laser Weapons. Now, It’s Officially Using Them in Battle

The Department of Defense has also confirmed to have used this kind of weaponry to take down enemy drones.

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We won’t be seeing soldiers using laser rifles on the battlefield anytime soon. However, the military is starting to use this kind of directed-energy weapon in other battle scenarios. The Pentagon has recently confirmed the first official deployment of laser weapons overseas after the Department of Defense invested billions of dollars in these type of weapons.

Doug Bush, assistant secretary for the Army, told Forbes that the U.S. military has already used laser weapons to shoot down hostile targets. “They’ve worked in some cases,” he said, adding that these lasers were used in the Middle East, where armed drone strikes have been increasing.

Laser Weapons to Take Down Drones

Authorities haven’t disclosed many details about the operational laser weapons. However, they have provided some clues. According to an Army RCCTO spokesman speaking to, a 20-kilowatt Palletized High Energy Laser (P-HEL, seen in the image above) system has been deployed overseas. The P-HEL is based on BlueHalo’s LOCUST Laser Weapon System (LWS), designed to take down small drones, among other artillery.

In a recent press release, BlueHalo describes the LOCUST LWS as a system that includes all the necessary components to fire a laser weapon. It combines optical hardware, a power source, a precision laser, and artificial intelligence. Interestingly, the laser array of this million-dollar device can be controlled with a standard $30 Xbox controller.

The U.S. spends about $1 billion a year on directed-energy weapons, according to data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, the GAO warns that there are obstacles to bringing this technology into combat scenarios. In principle, this alternative is expected to offer several advantages over traditional ammunition weapons.

Laser 1 Prototype non-lethal laser PHASR.

With laser weapons, operators don't have to worry about having a certain amount of ammunition. Instead, they must have a guaranteed power source. This solution addresses many logistical issues and presents itself as a silent, versatile, and much more economical option than, for example, launching a missile.

Laser 2 UK’s DragonFire.

Many believe this system to be very promising. However, we haven’t seen it on the battlefield before. Why? This might be due to various reasons. The GAO suggests it could be because of the complexity of maintaining and repairing laser weapons. These armaments have sensitive mechanisms that often need specialized personnel and even a “clean room” for repair work.

The U.S. isn't the only country interested in developing laser weapons. Many others have been investing in this type of technology for years. This includes the United Kingdom, which is developing the so-called DragonFire system. However, this directed-energy laser weapon technology is still in an experimental stage, and its operational deployment is not expected to occur until 2027.

Image | LOCUST| U.S. Department of Defense

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