The future is now as the Marine Corps is working toward small mobile units packing a laser mounted defense. New mobile units will be able to protect themselves from aerial attacks via drones and other aircraft. They’ll be able to do so thanks to new laser weapons and Stinger missiles. Both of these systems are mounted on combat vehicles.
According to Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for combat development and integration, we’re still a few years away from seeing this out in the field. The Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-The-Move concept demonstrator is ready to start Phase 3. The new phase will move from firing a 30-kilowatt laser from a stationary ground vehicle to firing at targets while on the move. Should the demonstrator complete this phase, which should be around 2022, it will transition into a program of record in the Marine Corps. It will most likely sit right next to the Stinger missile system as a ground unit self-protection system.
According to Walsh, while the Marines have been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan for 15 years, concepts for operations, as well as requirements for the future and future systems are rapidly evolving.
“…when we see near-peer competitors, the development that’s going on in Russia and China, it is really waking us up to what we’re going to have to do in the future,” he said. “So we look at our air defense capability as certainly a weak area that we have not upgraded in a long time because we haven’t had to deal with that in the operating environment we’ve been in.”
Walsh added that he hopes that the Marine Corps will transition away from missiles altogether and go to directed energy-only (lasers). The Marine Corps isn’t the only military organization that’s working on laser weapon. The U.S. Army is also working on a laser weapon of its own and while there’s a chance that each branch will work together to pursue the technology, it remains separate for now.
“Once we see where we’re coming out of that, working closely with the Army, we see ourselves paralleling into a joint program of record on this.” Walsh said.
Current projects are just a stepping stone. As projects prove fruitful, they could branch off into other areas, such as offensive laser weapons on aircraft, and the Army is working on a large base defense laser system. Though, the Marine Corps isn’t participating in the development of the latter program. The branch is solely focused on the mobile systems. Should the Army succeed in their system, the Marines could potentially use the system for their forward operating bases.
What are your thoughts on the military weaponizing lasers? Let us know in the comments section below or on social media.Source: USNI News