Countries like North Korea and Iran continue to pose a threat to global stability forcing countries like the U.S. to develop new and superior forms of defense. While drones have had their military uses for several decades now, they are continuing to be developed and improved to help counteract threats from overseas enemies. The U.S. Missile Defence Agency (MDA) have recently stated that the threat from North Korea has escalated and they have shown to be advancing and accelerating their capability to launch attacks on U.S. soil, such as has been demonstrated in their development of long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
Part of President Trump’s national security budget is being set aside for the development and construction of remote controlled robots with the capacity to destroy enemy rockets, and along with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, they are said to have the potential to change the way that missile defence functions.
The Low Power Demonstrator (LPD)
The LPD program has been assigned the task of developing and producing a UAV that can be fitted with a 150kilowatt laser cannon, to try and combat the threat. One such weapon has already been fitted to a warship and proved to have sufficient power to take down drones
operated from enemy territory.
This high powered LPD may sound and look like something out of science fiction, but it has a very real purpose and could be used to target long range ballistic missiles while they’re still on the enemy launch pad or destroy them just after they have been launched.
The Missile Defence Agency have made tentative plans to arm drones with these high powered lasers by the year 2020, and state that: “scalable, efficient, and compact high-energy lasers can be game-changing capabilities within missile defence architectures.”
Those responsible for creating and constructing the weapon plan to mount it on the U.S.’s newly designed Avenger drones, which are bigger and stealthier than their predecessors, the Predator Drone, which were used in both the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What problems might the LPD face?
Issues such as the weight of the laser weaponry and the power that they need to function properly, need to be tackled before such a weapon would be ready for use in live combat. There is also the issue of drones being operational under such conditions as dust and water vapour; as both can distort the laser beam.
We can choose to take comfort in the fact that drones are being developed to help combat the threat from countries such as North Korea, or we can fret about their capabilities getting into the wrong hands and being turned against us. Warfare isn’t an easy topic and most of us would prefer not to have to discuss it all, but since the threat is there, it’s important we don’t turn a blind eye.