Silent and deadly: Australian directed energy pitched against hypersonics

Published in Defence Connect | 28 August 2023

Written by: Robert Dougherty

Canberra-based defence company Electro Optic Systems has pitched a “silent and deadly” directed energy laser system during a live fire demonstration earlier this week.

Members of the media (including Defence Connect) and university staff attended the kinetic and directed energy counter-drone live fire demonstration at Klondyke Range Complex in western NSW on 25 August.

During the presentation, the company’s Titanis water-cooled, 34-kilowatt (light energy) laser directed energy system was successfully tested against unmanned aerial vehicles and 8mm-thick steel plates at a distance of around one kilometre. The system operates out of a 20-foot container testbed.

Matt Jones, EOS executive vice-president defence systems, who attended the demonstration, said the system is designed for counter drone operations but can be scaled up or down for a range of applications including potentially against hi-speed missiles or hypersonics.

“Directed energy as a technology has a range of applications from low-power systems for counter sensor operations, all the way up through to very high-powered systems, which can deliver counter ballistic missiles, counter hypersonics, and even counter space,” he said.

“What we’re seeing here is a very small sliver of what you can do with directed energy. The employment scenario drives the requirements of the deployment system and directed energy has some key technical advantages.

“High speed targets are not high speed when you compare it to the speed of light.

“Other systems where you’re trying to either fire a missile or fire a round at something that’s moving very, very fast make it very hard to hit that target.

“But when you’re firing something that’s moving at the speed of light, that problem is much easier. It’s then about how much energy can you get onto the target.”

It’s understood that the event held earlier this month is a precursor before government officials, VIPs, and international observers are shown the test in the following weeks.

“We have interest from Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, North America. There’s a mixture of government officials, defence primes, and UN organisations with particular interest in directed energy development, that are coming to see the demonstration capability,” Jones said.

“The United States of America has been heavily invested in this capability for [the] last three years, we’ve invested $30 million of company money in the development of the technology today.

“We’re very confident that will then turn into orders and partnerships in the global domain and we’ve got some key competitive advantages. The technology that we’re demonstrating is world class.”

Jones said the company had not currently confirmed any contracts for the directed energy system and is around 12 months away from a soldier-proof deployable battlefield system.

“There is a huge amount of interest in adopting and deploying directed energy; and we expect off the back of this (demonstration) that we can have further discussions about future contracts,” he said.

“What we’re doing here is demonstrating that the technology works, that we can defeat drones with directed energy.

“Customers may well come to us with different concepts and ideas saying, ‘We actually want it on a tracked vehicle, in a container or we want on the back of a buggy to provide local counter drone capability’.”

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