The Air Force Research Laboratory will launch its first experiment to use directed energy to defend bases against small, unmanned aerial systems in October, a service official said Wednesday.
Bill Cooper, director of AFRL's Hybrid Defense of Restricted Airspace (HyDRA) study, said at a March 21 Booz Allen Hamilton conference on laser weapons the Air Force will bring commercial systems to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for October's experiment.
Another experimentation round focused on subsystems will follow in June 2019, Cooper said. He noted the Air Force is preparing four experiments in the next three years to explore DE applications to counter UAS and cruise missiles and to improve precision strike capabilities.
Inside Defense reported last year the Air Force wants battle command and sensor systems that quickly detect, track and target single or multiple UAS, as well as systems that identify and classify aircraft while intervening with, defeating or denying their flight using military-operated high-power microwave and laser weapons. The service hosted an industry day earlier this year to better understand what companies can offer, but AFRL officials said this week the larger challenge lies in integrating those systems.
Cooper told Inside Defense the Air Force hopes to buy a directed-energy base defense system in a few years.