The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded contracts for development of a laser weapon, designed for use on ground vehicles used by the US Marine Corps (USMC).

Development of the weapon is part of the Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy (GBAD) On-the-Move programme.

The latest move follows the US Navy’s plan to deploy its first laser system, known as LaWS, on the USS Ponce ship this summer.

The GBAD programme is aimed at offering an affordable alternative to conventional firepower to keep enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground by deploying the GBAD system on light tactical vehicles, including Humvee and joint light tactical vehicles.

ONR has invited the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division to build GBAD’s components and subsystems, such as the laser, beam director, batteries, radar, advanced cooling, communications and command and control.

US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory vice-chief of naval research Brigadier General Kevin Killea said: "We’re confident we can bring together all of these pieces in a package that’s small enough to be carried on light tactical vehicles and powerful enough to counter these threats."

"We can expect that our adversaries will increasingly use UAVs and our expeditionary forces must deal with that rising threat."

Technologies being developed under the GBAD programme form part of the Marine Corps Science and Technology Strategic Plan, which calls for a mobile directed-energy weapon capable of destroying threats such as UAVs.

ONR Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department head Colonel William Zamagni said: "GBAD gives the Marine Corps a capability to counter the UAV threat efficiently, sustainably and organically with austere expeditionary forces.

"GBAD employed in a counter-UAV role is just the beginning of its use and opens myriad other possibilities for future expeditionary forces.

"We can expect that our adversaries will increasingly use UAVs and our expeditionary forces must deal with that rising threat".

With some of the system’s components already being deployed during trials to detect and track UAVs of all sizes, the overall system would be tested against targets using a 10kW laser as a stepping stone to a 30kW laser later this year.

With field trials anticipated to take place in 2016, the new 30kW system would be trialled to assure a seamless process from detection and tracking to firing, all from mobile tactical vehicles.

Defence Technology