As part of an ongoing effort to modernize the battlefield, the U.S. Army is working with Kord Technologies to put laser weapons on the ground. The newly created Directed Energy Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system (or DE M-SHORAD for short), a 50 kilowatt-class laser integrated onto a Stryker vehicle, is designed to shoot down threats like drones and mortars without the use of guns and heavy artillery. Following a successful combat shoot-off earlier this year, Kord Technologies is preparing four prototypes of the laser weapon system, which are mounted on armored Stryker vehicles, to be deployed into the field in September 2022.
Here, Wesley Freiwald, vice president for Space Superiority and Missile Defense at KBR, Kord Technologies’ parent company, explains just how this groundbreaking system works and why it’s a valuable asset for the Army.
What Is the DE M-SHORAD Weapon System?
The lasers being created for the Army are nothing like the lasers you know. Compared to the average laser pointer, which is around 0.005 watts and effectively harmless, the DE M-SHORAD weapon systems have significantly more power. As much as 50 kilowatts of power, to be more exact. They can destroy drones and mortars, providing assistance to troops and protection in the field.
For those who want to get technical, the DE M-SHORAD weapon system uses solid-state lasers that leverage the lanthanide elements on the periodic table—lanthanum (57) to lutetium (71)—otherwise known as rare-earth metals. These elements have high excitation levels, meaning you can get a lot of power or energy out of them without chemicals or gas. And this is helpful to the Army for a number of reasons.
The Benefits of the DE M-SHORAD Weapon System
According to Freiwald, solid-state lasers can help reduce the cost per kill, a metric that’s often used to measure a defense system’s worth. “Hauling heavy lead and explosives around requires a bunch of logistics and is very costly,” he says. “With solid-state lasers, all you really need is a large battery supply, which, in case of DE M-SHORAD weapon system, is already integrated on the Stryker vehicle.
“Since you’re not carrying around commercial ordinances, accounting for the people required to restock those things, solid-state lasers are, logistically, a little more friendly.”