If you pay attention to the news you are probably aware that Iran shot down one of our drones last month in the Persian Gulf. It has led to an increase in tensions in the region and the Strait of Hormuz in particular and that has been exacerbated as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized an oil tanker in response to the seizure of a tanker by the British at the Strait of Gibraltar. Tensions further increased as the US Marine Corps shot down an Iranian drone 2 weekends ago but hopefully the downing of this will make Iran pause as the Marines made history.

Directed Energy Weapons

When we think of energy weapons we think of Star Trek or Star Wars or you could just say science fiction in general. It is certainly not something that any nation on this planet has in its arsenal right? Wrong.

According to the Department of Defense the ship that downed the drone, the USS Boxer (LHD-4), used a system called LMADIS (Light Marine Air Defence Integrated System). The system is mounted on a Marine Corps MRZR all terrain vehicle and is comprised of two separate vehicles, a command vehicle and an electronic warfare vehicle. The equipment included with these vehicles include radar sensors, cameras and radio frequency detectors and jammers. The system was tested previously on land and was tested on Navy vessels last year

How Does It Work?

Radar and cameras are used to scan the sky for drones specifically. It has the ability to distinguish between friendly and hostile targets and when a hostile target is detected it uses radio frequencies to jam the target and bring it down. This is possible because when a drone is cut off from its connection it will either crash or return to its place of origin. In this case this drone crashed.

With drones being incorporated into many militaries around the world as well as many terrorist groups using commercial drones for their designs being able to defend against not only a solo drone but also a swarm of them is one of the challenges our military needs to overcome considering how readily available a drone is to the general populace. A single drone has the ability to cause great damage, whether it is to bring down or harass a multi-million dollar aircraft or just to waste time and ammunition trying to shoot them down. It seems we may have found a solution.

Benefits Of Directed Energy Weapons

Directed Energy Weapons have major benefits over conventional arms and this test certainly has many leaders smiling for more than one reason. Of course this incident proved a successful test as the drone was taken down at about 1,000 yards from the ship and it cost roughly about a tank of gas. 

Using a missile to try to take down the drone may not work and that missile costs money, about $170,000 each for the Sea Sparrow missiles around $1,000,000 for each of the Rolling AirFrame missiles found on the Boxer. While not as costly, conventional arms can be even less effective but defending against a drone could still use thousands of dollars worth of ammunition. Some combination would have been used to bring down the drone.

Could This Ease Tensions?

Iran has been trying to make itself a player on the world stage as it attempts to become a nuclearized power and gain the prestige that comes with that. It has led them to becoming much more aggressive and provocative and they can cause major damage to the world by closing the Strait of Hormuz, which is one of the major maritime highways, particularly for the oil industry. 

When Iran shot down one of our drones it nearly led to a reprisal but that was averted at the last moment. Is Iran trying to figure out how far they can push or are they simply trying to be annoying to waste our time and money? If it is the latter they have failed (though they deny that their drone was shot down) and they may not have been prepared for that, which could be a good thing as tensions may simmer. If it is the former they are trying to egg us on and will only become more aggressive. That could lead to war and the last thing this country needs is to be involved in another conflict in the Middle East but Iran will not benefit from such an event as well.

Of course when we think of Directed Energy weapons we think of phasers from Star Trek or a blaster from Star Wars. This is obviously not that but it is still pretty darn cool. The next generation of weapons will descend from this and one day bullets will go the way of the dodo bird. Let’s just hope that these new weapons never need to be used.

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