Drones Beware: Raytheon’s Laser Weapon Factory in McKinney Delivers Highly Mobile, Combat-Ready System

The new H4 laser weapon is able to acquire, target, track, and destroy drones whether they're close, far away, or attacking in swarms, Raytheon said.

As the war in Ukraine has vividly shown, drones have become a critical part of warfare, from kamikaze UAVs to small quadcopters that can drop a grenade right into a trench on the battlefield below. One way to defeat them is using high-energy laser weapons—and Raytheon Technologies recently delivered one that “can be moved and mounted anywhere it’s needed.”

Built in what Raytheon calls “the world’s first laser weapon factory” in McKinney north of Dallas, the H4 is the Air Force’s first “palletized” high-energy laser weapon. It was successfully tested last fall during four days of live-fire exercises at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico by the USAF’s Life Cycle Management Center and Raytheon, the company said. 

During the test, the system was put through live-fire exercises “to acquire, target, track and destroy drone targets in short-range attack, swarm attack, and long-range threat scenarios,” Raytheon said.

H4 is the fourth laser weapon system delivered by Raytheon

Raytheon’s palletized H4 laser weapon [Photo: Raytheon]

Raytheon says its new palletized H4 laser weapon was “the first 10-kilowatt laser built to U.S. military specifications in a stand-alone configuration” that’s readily mobile and can be mounted wherever it’s needed—including on the pickup truck seen in the photo above.

It’s the fourth operational laser weapon system that Raytheon has delivered to the Air Force, the company said, and is the eighth total system the company has delivered to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Anywhere the Air Force sees a threat from drones, they now have four proven laser weapons that can be deployed to stop asymmetrical threats,” Michael Hofle, senior director of high-energy lasers at Raytheon Technologies, said in a statement. “Whether it’s on a fixed location, a flatbed, or even a pickup, these laser weapons are compact, rugged and ready to go. That’s why we’re proud to support the Air Force’s effort to provide this new tech to the personnel who need it in the field, who can trust and be confident in the system’s capabilities.”

Operated with ‘a laptop and a video game-style controller’

The Raytheon H4 laser weapon system is very mobile. [Photo: Raytheon Technologies]

Designed to be compact, the H4 system features a high-energy laser weapon module, a long-range EO/IR sensor that also serves as the beam director, thermal control, internal electrical power, and targeting software. It’s all packaged together
for use in the toughest combat environments,” Raytheon said.

Operated with a laptop and a video game-style controller, the H4 can “plug into” a long list of existing air defense and command and control systems, Raytheon added, providing what is increasingly being shown to be a much-needed layer of defense.

Raytheon said the H4 system was delivered to the USAF’s Life Cycle Management Center nine months after receipt of order.

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