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Laser equipped Humvee pops and fizzles IEDs

Boeing test-markets a directed-energy device for ordnance disposal, set on a mobile platform traditionally used for anti-aircraft missions.

Popular Mechanics

Boeing has rolled out the marketing for its laser-equipped Humvee by zapping five IED-like targets on a test range at Alabama's Redstone Arsenal (PDF) in what it called "the company's ability to rapidly respond to warfighters' needs."

Dubbed the "Laser Avenger," the unit consists of a 1-kilowatt solid-state laser mounted on an air-defense Humvee. It works by "shooting an invisible beam just a few centimeters in diameter and 20 times hotter than an electric stovetop" into the offending munition until it combusts internally. It then just "pops" or "fizzles" in a low-level detonation.

"Boeing's investment strategy is to move some of its new directed energy weapon systems into field demonstrations, and Laser Avenger is the first one we're rolling out," Boeing's Gary Fitzmire said in a press release.

This application is hardly new. Ten years ago an ordnance disposal unit at Nellis Air Force Base was using an APC-mounted 2KW YAG laser to nix hundreds of unexploded cluster bombs on its bombing range.

In 2003, the U.S. Army deployed a ZEUS-HLONS (HMMWV Laser Ordnance Neutralization System) to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where it popped more than 200 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in six months. It even set a record by "negating" more than 50 UXOs in less than two hours.

While this and other laser units allow EOD teams to stand off at a safe distance and dispose of an IED, they still need to find it. And when it comes to that, the Avenger is just another target on the road.

The company hedged its bets by cutting up some UAVs during the demonstration in a nod to the anti-aircraft market. But as you see by the video, it's not breaking any ground there either.