China unveils 'drone killer' laser weapon at Airshow China, can shoot down target at low cost
Published: Nov 11, 2022 08:47 PM Updated: Nov 11, 2022 11:03 PM
LW-30 laser defense weapon system Photo: Cao Siqi/GT

LW-30 laser defense weapon system Photo: Cao Siqi/GT

A laser weapon used against drones attracted wide attention at this year's Airshow China. Dubbed the killer of UAVs, the weapon can launch effective strikes on low, slow and small (LSS) targets, which refer to those that fly below an altitude of one kilometer, at speeds of around 200 kilometers per hour and have a radar cross-section smaller than one square meter.

The weapon also reminded many military fans of a similar weapon that Saudi Arabia announced at the first Arab World Defense Exhibition on March 6 it had purchased from China: the "Silent Hunter" laser air defense system.

The vehicle-based laser weapon, called the LW-30 laser defense weapon system, was unveiled by the China Space Sanjiang Group under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), one of China's largest missile manufacturers.

Laser defense weapons are a new type of weapon that use high-energy laser beams to attack targets. Its characteristics in-clude "light speed engagement, silent attack, continuous operation, flexible and accurate, high cost-effectiveness ratio." It is a new type of weapon that all military powers are focusing on developing, and has broad application prospects in the international military trade market. By focusing high-energy laser on one point, when the energy reaches a certain level, the targeted weapon can directly burn through the control panel of the UAV.

"The LW-30 laser defense weapon system has a power output of 30kw. The laser comes out of the canister of the tracking and firing system and hits the target directly, knocking it out," Chen Chaoyang, spokesman for China Space Sanjiang Group, told the Global Times. 

"The system is effective at intercepting targets within a few kilometers. Achieving instantaneous destruction of the UAV requires a higher-power output from the system, and the weapon system is still being optimized for this purpose," Chen said. 

The Global Times learned from the company that the LW-30 laser defense weapon system is mainly used for critical field air defense, with hard killing capability against typical targets such as UAVs, as well as hard and soft killing capability against photoelectric detection and guidance equipment. 

Compared with other air defense equipment, this weapon has high strike efficiency, multi-target strike capability, which can fire multiple times in a short time with high strike accuracy, and strong sustained operation. The implementation of electric energy strikes also makes the weapon cheap to use - just a dozen yuan (about $2). It can also respond quickly as it only takes a few seconds for the system to aim at the target.

This system can be flexibly deployed in key areas according to specific scenarios and needs. It can carry out not only independent combat with a single vehicle, but also multi-vehicle network attacks. It can also be incorporated into traditional air defense weapon systems, and be used with traditional weapons such as close-in artillery and air de-fense missiles.

It is widely believed that the laser needs to be active at one point for a sustained period of time to damage the target, which raises the question of how the LW-30 achieves multiple target strikes and multiple shots in a short period of time. 

Chen told the Global Times that the laser vehicle can inflict damage on ordinary targets for a few seconds. That is to say, within the range of the target, the weapon can shoot down a drone in a few seconds, and then enters into another drone attack mode. The vehicle's tracking and sighting system can rotate 360 degrees to instantly turn fire on another drone.

In addition to high strike efficiency, compared with traditional anti-aircraft weapons, laser weapons are cheaper to use because they mainly rely on electricity converted into laser to destroy targets. 

"If it's an ordinary small drone, it costs about a dozen yu-an, and our goal is to try to bring the cost down even further," Chen said.

The widespread use of UAVs in hot military conflicts has also led to an increasing demand for anti-UAVs. In terms of defense systems, the laser weapon is a hot new weapon, and all countries are spending a lot of money researching and producing this kind of weapon. As drones continue to improve, laser weapons continue to be upgraded. 

"The LW-30 laser defense system is mainly aimed at low, small and slow UAVs and has a very good defensive effect. The global market prospects are very broad," Chen said.