In a bid to counter terrorist drone activities, Japan has decided to establish a high powered laser mounted on vehicles to shoot down the small drones. Japan’s Defense Ministry has planned to develop high-powered lasers to destroy the enemy drones until 2025 and will engage with companies for the project, reported Nikkei Asia.
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Earlier, Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a request for a record-breaking $55 billion defense budget for the fiscal year 2021. It is an 8 percent increase from the previous year’s budget marking an eighth consecutive year for an increase in the defense budget for the country.
Apart from Tokyo’s Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the budget also includes $42 million for developing counter-drone capabilities. According to the Nikkei Asia report, Japan’s Defense Ministry has collaborated with Kawasaki Heavy to develop laser technology by 2023.
With countries like the US, China, Turkey, UK, Isreal and others using armed drones, there is a fear among them for the proliferation of this technology in the wrong hands.
The commercial drone markets have flourished in the last few years which has led to the easy availability of them for a cheaper price. Terrorist organizations like the Islamic State have used these drones to drop grenades or crash into infrastructure.
Last year, the drone attack on Saudi Aramco the world’s largest oil processing facility created significant damage using 18 drones, said the Saudi defense ministry.
Japan is seeking to develop high powered that will eventually be mounted on vehicles that can be moved rapidly to counter the drone attack.
The US is also developing such counter-drone lasers however, the Nikkei Asia report says citing Japan’s defense ministry that no country has yet deployed vehicle-mounted high-powered lasers for operational use.
“This is a very serious, looming threat that we are currently unprepared to confront,” David Glawe and Hayley Chang the two top officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in testimony to Congress in 2018. “Today we are unable to effectively counter malicious use of drones because we are hampered by federal laws enacted years before UAS technology was available for commercial and consumer use.”
US’ Raytheon Technologies have developed a high-energy laser weapon system for the US Air Force and explained on its official website how their system counters the drones.
“A radar detects an object overhead. The radar then sends a list of contacts of interest to an advanced variant of the company’s fielded Multi-spectral Targeting System, a suite of optical sensors, to figure out whether the unmanned aircraft system is a threat or a friend. If it’s a threat, the system’s beam director tells the laser where to zap the target.”
Another high-powered method to down drones is the use of microwaves which can be mounted on ships for counter-attack operation in the sea.
“The beam is like a searchlight from a lighthouse,” said Don Sullivan, a chief technologist at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies. “The fact that you can simultaneously track and immediately move to the next target to address not just a swarm, but multiple swarms, is a big advantage.”