Military considering lasers to guard vehicles against roadside bombs
Canadian soldiers await a military medivac for a man believed wounded by artillery as he planted an IED near the village of Fathollah in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province on Monday, Sept. 6, 2010. (Dene Moore / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 22, 2013 1:22PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 22, 2013 3:58PM EST
OTTAWA -- It may sound like something out of a futuristic movie, but the military is looking at mounting high-powered lasers on armoured vehicles to help protect troops from roadside bombs.
The Canadian Forces wants to put lasers on its fleet of Cougar armoured vehicles so soldiers can blast apart improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, from a safe distance.
"(High-energy laser) is considered as one of the most promising technologies to provide the Canadian Army with an unprecedented performance edge," says a contract notice posted Friday.
Improvised explosive devices evolved into the deadliest threat faced by soldiers over the course of Canada's 10-year combat mission in Afghanistan. Of the 158 Canadian soldiers killed, 93 died in IED attacks, according to the independent monitoring website icasualties.org.
Insurgents quickly realized roadside bombs were a far more effective tactic than engaging in face-to-face combat against their better-armed foes.
They littered the ditches, roads and fields of Afghanistan with makeshift bombs, which were detonated with a pressure switch or by remote control.
When the military added more armour to vehicles so they could better withstand the blasts, the insurgents responded by building even bigger, deadlier bombs, often by stacking explosives on top of each other.
Lasers could well be the key to defeating such threats, the military contract notice suggests.
The technology has come a long way in recent years, the document says, and lasers are now close to being used in the field.
"This rapid evolution is due to recent developments in the fibre laser technology which led to an abrupt availability of low cost and robust core laser systems readily available for defence applications," the notice says.
No one from the Canadian Forces was immediately available to comment.