Defence Force reveals first laser weapon

Soldier operating a drone. Newsreel
The Australian Defence Force is trialing its first laser weapon, which it will use to target drones. | Photo: Vadimry Sev (iStock)

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is trialing its first laser weapon, which can burn through steel and destroy objects a kilometre away.

The ADFs Fractl Portable High Energy Laser is its first directed-energy weapon and was put through its paces at a Puckapunyal range, in Victoria, last month.

AIM Defence co-founder Jessica Glenn, whose company developed the suitcase-sized laser, said it was powerful enough to burn through steel and could track objects as small as a 10-cent piece travelling 100km/h a kilometre away.

“The laser works like a blowtorch travelling at the speed of light,” Ms Glenn said.

She said it was silent, virtually motionless and soldiers could be taught to use it in minutes.

Corporal Patrick Flanagan was given a short five-minute training session before successfully shooting down a drone.

“You push a button to track the drone and the computer takes over, then you push another button to ‘pull the trigger’ just like a video game,” Corporal Flanagan said.

“With your index finger you can quickly change your aim between the drone’s video camera, centre mass or one of the propellers.

“It only takes seconds to knock out the camera and two or three seconds to disable the rotor.”

Ms Glenn said a soldier presses a button on a small handheld device, similar to a Windows Steam Deck, and hundreds of metres away a drone falls out of the sky in a tiny puff of smoke.

“It can burn a hole in a drone using less than the amount of power it takes to boil a kettle.”

She said the laser’s strength was limited by the power supply and AIM Defence had successfully engaged drones at 1km in past tests.