The DE M-SHORAD (Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense) program for the creation of a maneuverable short-range air defense system for directed energy is one of the 35 priority areas for modernizing the US armed forces. The Army is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop laser countermeasures against drones and artillery. In appropriations for the current fiscal year, the US Congress has allocated $434 million to the Army, $60 million more than the Pentagon requested.
The development of the DE M-SHORAD project started in 2019. The Raytheon and Northrop Grumman corporations took up the design, and all work was immediately classified, because the Pentagon considers laser weapons to be breakthrough and provide superiority over the enemy on the battlefield.
Although laser technologies have been used in various fields for quite a long time and in many countries, each of their new applications is not without complex technological challenges. One of them, for example, for the designers of two corporations was the problem of cooling. During the tests, the laser equipment was repeatedly ignited.
The fact is that only a third of the energy power generated for the pulse is converted into a laser beam. The rest must be released into the atmosphere. So, on a 50-kilowatt laser, about 100 kW of thermal energy is required to be removed. That is why a whole battery of radiators and cooling system fans is installed on the right side of the hull of the serial Stryker armored personnel carrier.
Another problem was the inability of the initial samples of the system to hit mortar rounds. The installation tracked them, but could not bring them down. This problem was also solved, and during tests this year, the laser module detected, tracked and hit several flying 60-mm mines.
According to the American press, a 50 kW laser is capable of quickly burning through plastic and metal structural elements of drones belonging to the first, second and third categories. In weight parameters - from several kilograms to 600. It is also capable of hitting flying mines and artillery shells.
On the laser Stryker, instead of landing, power supplies, crew jobs and part of the control systems are now placed inside. Standard vehicle armor provides protection against armor-piercing bullets of 14.5 mm caliber and shrapnel. Additional hinged protection allows you to withstand sub-caliber 30-mm projectiles.
The combat module with a laser and an optical-location station Ku720 is located on the roof of the armored personnel carrier. The multipurpose radar provides 360-degree airspace coverage. Using also target designation data received from external sources, the complex can find an air target, take it on escort and fire a shot.
From the previous weapons, replaced by a laser system, the Stryker left a 30-mm automatic cannon and a radar station with an active phased array antenna, as well as an aiming station with infrared and electro-optical channels.
Following the 50-kilowatt lasers, the US Army expects to receive 20-kilowatt lasers, which are supposed to be installed on light squad vehicles. They will protect these units from small kamikaze drones. Tests are already underway.