The U.S. Air Force has received the fourth H4 laser weapon system from Raytheon, making it a total of eight laser complexes supplied to various services of the U.S. Department of Defense, Raytheon reports.
The H4 laser weapon system is a compact 10-kilowatt laser in an autonomous configuration that can be transported on various platforms, from regular pickups to naval platforms, or used as a stationary system to defend specific objects or positions.
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The system is designed to counter close-range threats, particularly unmanned aerial vehicles. The first H4 laser system underwent testing by the U.S. Air Force in the fall of 2022 as part of a four-day live-fire exercise. Overall, the system successfully completed the planned testing and evaluation by the service. The training exercises included target detection, tracking and engagement in various scenarios, such as close-range attacks, group attacks and long-range threats.
The laser system consists of a high-energy laser module, an EO/IR sensor responsible for directing the laser beam, internal power supply and other components.
The control of the laser system is relatively simple and can be done using a regular laptop and a controller resembling a video game controller. This suggests that learning to operate the system may not be overly complex.
Indeed, according to Raytheon, the H4 laser system “can plug into a long list of existing air defense, and command and control systems to provide a needed layer of defense”.
So, it means that the H4 laser system can receive target information from various systems, including those supplied to Ukraine as defense aid. Therefore, such system could be easily integrated into the Ukrainian air defense system. Russian and Iranian drones would provide an opportunity to test the H4 laser system directly in the field under challenging conditions.
Moreover, the United States regularly provides weapons and equipment to Ukraine as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which means that the weapons are transferred directly from manufacturer. However, in the case of the H4 laser system, it involves a timeframe of three quarters. Raytheon specifically notes that the system was constructed and delivered within nine months after the order was placed.