Can Lasers Be Used to Destroy Tanks?

Can Lasers Be Used to Destroy Tanks?
Can Lasers Be Used to Destroy Tanks?

12.9 million Australian dollars were spent by Australia on the development of lasers capable of destroying heavily fortified targets such as tanks.

The Australian Ministry of Defense has commissioned QinetiQ Australia to produce a high-energy laser to destroy armored vehicles such as tanks. Australian QinetiQ is a world leader in high-power laser research and development. Chief defense scientist Professor Tanya Monro AC said the A$12.9 million partnership demonstrates how Australia's Defense Science and Technology (DSTG) enables the rapid transformation of science and technology into military capability.

According to Professor Monro, “DSTG is working with business to develop the most advanced and competitive Australian sovereign capabilities for our Defense Forces in critical technology areas.” “The high-energy laser fabrication capability is an example of how we can work with industry to support emerging and disruptive technologies,” he continued.

This is a challenging endeavor because the most powerful high-energy laser weapons currently available can only effectively destroy relatively fragile unmanned aerial vehicles and other unarmored air targets such as mortars or rockets. A tank is a very different animal, especially a frontline main battle tank. Tanks often have several inches or more of armor covering most of their hulls and turrets because they are built to withstand large pieces of high-speed metal. Not to mention more sophisticated armor like explosive reactive or composite armor.

If a laser were to be created that could cut through that much metal, a terribly powerful laser would be required. But as Popular Science points out, lasers also require a variety of additional tools, such as cameras and tracking systems, to keep a focused beam of light on the target long enough to do the desired damage.

A future project is to create a directed energy weapon system that can be mounted on protected and armored vehicles of the [Australian Defense Forces] and is effective against armored vehicles up to main battle tanks. The country's future defense policy states that the ultimate use of directed energy weapons can increase the adaptability of ground forces by reducing the force's dependence on ammunition sources and supply lines.

The secret to using a laser to cut through tank armor is to direct the light beam at the tank and make sure it's strong enough and long lasting to hit the target. “One problem with [laser weapons] is the amount of power required to neutralize practical targets like missiles. It would take hundreds of kilowatts, or perhaps megawatts, of lasers to destroy something this big. Sean O'Byrne, professor of engineering at UNSW Canberra and UNSW Sydney, wrote in an article describing the promise and dangers of anti-tank lasers, stating that since these devices are only 20% efficient, we will need five times more power to power the device itself.

“This is megawatt territory; the amount of power required to run a small town. Therefore, even portable directed energy devices are huge. Although devices with power up to 300kW have been developed, the US has only recently been able to produce a 50kW laser small enough to fit in an armored vehicle.

Source: Interesting Engineering



📩 04/05/2023 15:40