The U.S. Marine Corps has fielded a directed-energy weapon system to help deal with the threat of small drones. The Compact Laser Weapon System (CLWS), developed by Boeing, is available in 2-kW, 5-kW and 10-kW configurations. In addition to defeating smaller drones, it can be used to dazzle sensors, breach obstacles, detonate unexploded ordnance, deny access to landing zones and protect vital facilities. The laser can be deployed on a tripod or integrated with Stryker armored vehicles, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles or military ATVs.
Development of the CLWS began in 2015 with the installation of a 2-kW laser on a Stryker vehicle under the Mobile Experimental High-Energy Laser (MEHEL) program. Testing with a 5-kW variant started in 2016 and the 10-kW laser was trialed in 2018. The CLWS (mounted on a Utility Task Vehicle at left) was reportedly in Marine service in 2019. Images published by the service in 2021 indicated that the system had been fielded with low-altitude air defense battalions on the U.S. East and West coasts.
Iran has been upgrading one of its indigenously developed uncrewed aerial vehicles. The Shahed 129 medium-altitude, long-endurance drone, which may be based on the Israeli Hermes 450 UAV, is in line for a new synthetic aperture radar that was first unveiled in 2020. The aircraft is designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strike missions. It is equipped with an electro-optical sensor system as standard, with the ability to carry a radar as an option. The Shahed 129 can be armed with various guided munitions on two hardpoints that each accommodate two weapons.
Iran has ordered 40 Shahed 129 (at right) systems for delivery by 2024. There are reports that Tehran may have supplied its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon with some of the drones. It has also been used in support of the Assad regime in Syria as well as against domestic militant groups and in Iraq. Tehran has also developed a naval variant, dubbed the Simorgh, which was first seen publicly in 2019.
The Chinese navy has just commissioned its first large deck amphibious warship. The Hainan, built to the Type 075 design, formally entered service on April 23. She is assigned to the South Sea Fleet. Two more ships in the class are under construction. Development of the Type 075 began in 2011. The Hainan was launched in 2019, with the second ship in the class entering the water in 2020. The third vessel was launched in January 2021. There are plans to build as many as eight Hainan-class amphibs.
The Hainan (at left) has a well deck to deploy a variety of amphibious and landing craft. It can accommodate up to 30 crewed and uncrewed aircraft, including Z-20, Z-8 and Ka-28 helicopters. It is also expected to operate Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters in the future. The flight deck has six helicopter spots, with a seventh behind the island. Self-defense systems include two HHQ-10 surface-to-air missile systems and two 30-mm Type 730 close-in weapon systems. The ships in the class can also accommodate around 900 marines.
Woongbee Trains Pilots Around the World
The South Korean KT-1 Woongbee basic trainer continues to be popular around the world, including recent deliveries to Senegal. Talks are also underway for potential sales to Bangladesh and the Philippines. Other aviation updates include the Polish TS-11 Iskra trainer, 12.7-mm GAU-21 helicopter-mounted gun and the Aurora Flight Sciences Orion drone.
There are also a number of naval updates, including a new record for the Colombian Golfo de Tribuga-class tank landing craft, K-Ster, Minesniper and Pluto uncrewed underwater vehicles and China's Ming-class diesel-electric submarines.
Other updates this month include the Israeli Samson family of remote-controlled weapon stations, British Simba light vehicle, China's B-611 short-range ballistic missile, the U.S. BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile and a new record for North Korea's KN-09 multiple rocket launch system.
Thai Modernizes Military, Battles Unrest
Thailand continues to battle an insurgency in its southern regions as well as anti-government protests. The latest on the Thai order of battle is now available.
Authorities Seek Lessons from Capitol Attack
Law enforcement continues to hunt down suspects involved in the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, while identifying the failures that contributed to it. Andy Oppenheimer reviews the situation in "Fallout from an Insurrection."
The U.S. Army is close to fielding its first directed-energy weapons in an air defense role. Weapons Editor Brody Ladd looks at the service's long journey to develop operationally relevant lasers in "Lasers Come of Age."
Finland has received final bids in its program to replace its aging F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, in one of the largest such programs in Europe. Reuben Johnson delves into the competition and the offers in "Finnish Fighter Fight."
Finally, Turkey and Egypt have been quietly repairing ties after a decade of tensions. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey has the story in "Rapprochement in the Eastern Med."