The Marine Corps is planning to use ground vehicle-based lasers to defend against unmanned aerial systems, a top planner for the service said Tuesday. “It’s where we want to go” Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. “It’s going to lighten our load.” Walsh, who also serves as deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for combat development and integration, said a laser wouldn’t require powder or kinetic ordinance. But the challenge now is packing enough power into a system that can be mounted onto a vehicle. More powerful lasers, Walsh suggested, will be required to counter different threats. The Marines and Office of Naval Research have demonstrated a 10-kilowatt laser, but intend to move to a 30-kilowatt laser, he said. A Navy fact sheet indicates the program, Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-The-Move, is expected to demonstrate a UAS engagement in Fiscal 2017. “As the future goes, I think that’s just going to be continuous growth to go against higher end threats,” Walsh said. In the meantime, Walsh said the laser system will likely be paired with a Stinger missile to counter future threats. (See also: Managing Expectations)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.