Defence, Manufacturing News, Prototyping

ADF tests first energy-directed weapon

The Australian Defence Force’s first directed-energy weapon, the Fractl Portable High Energy Laser, has been developed and is now in its testing phase.

The Fractl Portable High Energy Laser is powerful enough to burn through steel and can track objects as small as a 10-cent piece travelling at 100km/h a kilometre away.

It’s silent, virtually motionless, and soldiers can be taught to use it in minutes.

Last month, the weapon system was put through its paces for senior officers looking to expand Defence’s counter-unmanned aerial system arsenal.

Corporal Patrick Flanagan was given a ‘soldier’s five’ before he successfully shot down a drone.

“You push a button to track the drone and the computer takes over, then you push another button to ‘pull the trigger’ just like a video game,” said Flanagan.

“With your index finger, you can quickly change your aim between the drone’s video camera, centre mass, or one of the propellers.

It only takes seconds to knock out the camera and two or three seconds to disable the rotor.”

A soldier presses a button on a small handheld device, and hundreds of metres away, a drone falls out of the sky in a tiny puff of smoke.

Melbourne company AIM Defence designed the suitcase-sized laser that works like a blowtorch travelling at the speed of light.

At the Puckapunyal demonstration, the team ‘hard killed’ a drone at 500m with a deployable prototype.

While the laser’s strength is limited by power supply, AIM Defence has successfully engaged drones at 1km in past tests.

Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office’s Warrant Officer Class Two Eli Lea said the Fractl Portable High Energy Laser could be one of many emerging weapons on future battlefields.

“Drones come in all shapes and sizes and you need a variety of tools to defeat the threat,” WO2 Lea said.

“Shooting small multi-rotor UAS out of the sky is particularly challenging. A directed-energy weapon that can detect, track, and engage those types of targets is a part of that toolset.”

Directed-energy weapons are one way Defence is embracing emerging technology to counter off-the-shelf small multi-rotor uncrewed aerial vehicles.

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