China has successfully tested a nationally developed laser defense system that targets low-flying small drones.
The Low Altitude Sentinel system can shoot down small aircraft within a 2-km radius within five seconds of detecting its target, according to a statement from the China Academy of Engineering Physics, one of the system’s co-developers.
Characterized by its speed, precision and low noise, the system is designed to destroy small unmanned drones flying within an altitude of 500 meters and at a speed below 180 km/h, the academy said.
Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing, said the system was developed at the right time as the Chinese military had been looking for a weapon to close the defense gaps in the detection and destruction of small drones.
“It is difficult for the radar of Chinese and foreign militaries to track drones flying slowly at low altitude,” he said. “The photoelectric laser apparatus can complement radar.”
No foreign military has weapons that can effectively detect and defend small, low-altitude drones, so the Low Altitude Sentinel will be a major achievement in the nation’s efforts to strengthen its air defense, Wu added.
Yi Jinsong, a manager at China Jiuyuan Hi-Tech Equipment Corp, a group under the academy spearheading the project, lauded the advantages of the new system. “Intercepting small drones has usually been the work of snipers and helicopters, but their success rate is not as high, and mistakes with accuracy can result in unwanted damage,” he said.
Yi said that such drones are relatively cheap and easy to use, which makes them a weapon of choice for both battlefield enemies and terrorists.
The Low Altitude Sentinel system, which will either be installed or transported in vehicles, is expected to play a key role in ensuring security during major events in urban areas, the academy said, adding that a recent test saw the machine successfully shoot down more than 30 drones－a 100 percent success rate.
The academy said that its researchers are developing similar laser systems with greater power and range.
Wu suggested that such systems combine lightweight anti-air missiles and quick-firing guns, and the carrying vehicle must have good mobility so the whole system can respond promptly to incoming targets.