Did Turkey Become The First Country To Shoot Down A Drone With A Laser Weapon? - Ercan Emre Çelik

On 4th of August, a Turkish-made laser weapon destroyed a Chinese-made Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicle operated by the United Arab Emirates’ forces in Libya according to prominent Belgium-based military news website Army Recognition. As per the writer of the said article, Alexander Timokhin, the system was mounted on an off-road vehicle supported by Aselsan made electro-optical targeting systems. If the allegations are true, this incident will mark the 50kW platform as the first combat-proven laser weapon system in the world.

The ability of these systems to shoot down drones and missiles became even more critical today given that just only a week ago Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked one of the most vital oil facilities in Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles. Today, it is far easier for non-state actors to get their hands on guided missile systems and weaponized drones. Therefore, protecting critical infrastructure and power plants against these attacks becomes harder and harder. It pushes the states to invest in researching and developing laser weapon systems.

Laser weapons for certain militaries of the world are no longer a dream but rather a necessity to counter and destroy incoming hostile missiles and drones to protect critical infrastructures.

By the year 2023, the US Army is expected to operate hundreds of armored personnel carriers that are mounted with a 50kW laser weapon system. Germany is developing a laser weapon system for marine applications whereas Israel, on the other hand, is planning to upgrade its Iron Dome defense system with lasers to provide better protection against its cities.

Then where is Turkey in this race for beams? Well, first publically available reports emerged in 2015, stating that TUBITAK, the scientific research agency of Turkey, had developed a laser weapon system similar to that of its US equivalents, it was designed to provide point-defense to military installations.

Below you can see two separate programs. First, one to the left is Roketsan’s Directed Energy Weapon System (YESS) that is mounted on a truck, first revealed in May 2019; and on the right is Aselsan’s Laser Defence System (LSS) mounted on an armored MRAP vehicle.

Aside from TUBİTAK, Aselsan and Roketsan’s separate laser programs, there are also two companies from the private sector that are also developing laser weapon systems. Given the frequency of field tests, a diverse pool of weapon types developed and the strategic vision of all three branches of the Turkish Armed Forces, it is very likely that Turkey will not only be operationally deploying laser defense systems, but also it will be one of the leading exporters of the platforms’ stationary point-defense variants.

These systems can be very suitable to protect Turkey’s critical infrastructure and power plants from drones and missiles operated by terrorist groups.