A Laser in Every Airplane?

Raytheon creates a practically-sized countermeasures system.

Laser Big

Laser Big

Are we close to the day when every airliner has on its list of standard equipment, along with TCAS II and radar altimeters, a laser gun? Could be. This month Raytheon announced that it had successfully developed a laser-powered missile jamming device small enough to fit inside the Army’s most compact helicopter but powerful enough to jam the targeting systems on anti-aircraft missiles. ** **

The laser is being developed as part of a contract bid to supply countermeasures devices to Army and Navy helicopters. Raytheon’s system, dubbed the Quiet Eyes Laser Turret Assembly, uses what it calls a “quantum cascade” of beams to disable the guidance of missiles. It could also, doubtless, do the same trick on enemy aircraft.

The system was successfully tested recently in a C-130, though it is compact and low-powered and could be installed even in a helicopter as small as a Cobra. While Raytheon is focusing on the Army contract, there are a number of tempting civilian applications as well. One would be mounting laser defense systems on civil airliners to be used as a defense against shoulder fired missiles, which have been used to shoot down a number of government and civil aircraft in Africa over the past decade. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dangers of shoulder-fired missile attacks were widely discussed, but countermeasures systems were deemed too bulky and costly for civil aircraft.

The countermeasures laser isn’t the only iron in the laser fire for Raytheon. Last year it demonstrated shooting down a UAV with a very high-powered ship-mounted laser. Check it out in the video below.