WASHINGTON, (BM) – The prototype of the Model 401 aircraft, built by the well-known company Scaled Composites, was captured with an unknown device in the lower part of the fuselage, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing the online magazine Popular Mechanics.
The American company Scaled Composites is known to specialists in the field of aviation technology – it develops various special-purpose aircraft for individual orders. One of the latest projects of the company is a device called Model 401, which first appeared on tests in 2017, but information about who is the customer of the prototype is still classified, as well as the purpose of the aircraft.
The Model 401 is visually similar to the Avenger attack unmanned aerial vehicle, developed by the American company General Atomics. Now the plane was suddenly noticed with an unknown device in the nose of the fuselage – experts believe that it is most likely a container for installing an aircraft laser. The picture shows that the mysterious device is equipped with an air intake, a small window on the right, and an exhaust pipe at the back.
This suggests that an auxiliary power unit is probably installed inside the container to power the laser with its own cooling system, and the pipe serves to remove heat from the control electronics. It’s no secret that the military is considering lasers as weapons with unlimited ammunition and a low cost per shot.
The secret Model 401 is known to be powered by a JT15D-5D turbofan jet engine developed by Pratt & Whitney. It can develop power up to 13 kilonewtons, thanks to which the device is capable of flying at speeds up to 741 km / h at an altitude of up to 9.1 kilometers. The aircraft is 11.6 meters long and has a maximum take-off weight of 3.6 tons.
US decided to arm its fighter jets with combat laser, but tests are postponed
As we reported on July 1 this year the long-planned trials of airborne laser weapons aboard the US Air Force fighter were postponed until 2023 due to technical problems and complications caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to the Air Force’s Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program (SHiELD), the first test of an air-based combat laser on board a fighter was planned in 2021. However, it’s now shifted two years “to the right,” said Jeff Heggemayer, director of the SHiELD program at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
“This is a truly sophisticated technology that needs to be integrated into an aircraft. Ultimately, this is exactly what we are trying to do with this program to demonstrate that laser technologies are sufficiently developed to integrate into the platform of a fighter aircraft,” he said. “But things like COVID-19 are undermining the economy. And this has a significant impact on our plans,” added Jeff Heggemayer.
The future of using laser weapons aboard fighter aircraft is still very unclear. The goal of the SHIELD program is to give combat aircraft the ability to defend against guided missiles launched by enemy aircraft or air defense systems on the ground. But in May, US Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Development, Mike Griffin, noted that he was “extremely skeptical” that an air-based laser could be used for such missile defense.
The United States begin to develop the anti-laser weapon system
The Department of Defense Advanced Engineering (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense announced a competition to develop a system for protecting military equipment from the effects of combat lasers, BulgarianMilitary.com reported last year. According to the task, the system developers must create a promising system that should detect laser radiation, automatically determine the location of its source and disrupt the operation of the emitting installation for several milliseconds from the moment of detection of the beam.
It is allowed to use kinetic weapons in the defense system to counter combat lasers. Companies that have already completed analysis of a new system project or laboratory research will be eligible to participate in the competition. DARPA emphasized that the creation of such systems is a necessity, since, according to military experts, over the next 20 years, laser weapons will become commonplace in military conflicts. On the timing of the creation of a prototype system of protection against laser weapons, nothing is said.
Today, several countries of the world, in particular Russia, China, the USA, France, Turkey and some other countries, are developing combat lasers that can be used to protect military installations from drones, mortar mines, cruise missiles, helicopters and light aircraft. Work on this topic is at various stages of implementation.
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