Space News – 2004-09-30 23:43:36
(August 27, 2004) — The Tactical High Energy Laser, built by Northrop Grumman for the US Army, shot down multiple mortar rounds Aug. 24, proving that laser weapons could be applied on the battlefield to protect against common threats.
In tests representative of actual mortar threat scenarios, the THEL testbed destroyed both single mortar rounds and mortar rounds fired in a salvo at White Sands Missile Range, NM.
The tests were conducted by the Army as part of the Mobile THEL (MTHEL) program. The MTHEL program is the responsibility of the SHORAD Project Office under the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Air, Space, and Missile Defense.
The purpose of the MTHEL program is to develop and test the first mobile Directed Energy weapon system capable of detecting, tracking, engaging, and defeating Rockets/Artillery/Mortars (RAM), cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Army is collaborating with the Israeli Ministry of Defense in the execution of the MTHEL program.
“These successful tests once again prove the versatility of the THEL testbed to counter a wide range of threats, particularly low-tech weapons like mortars,” said Patrick Caruana, vice president of Space and Missile Defense for Northrop Grumman Space Technology.
“For the first time, we have a way to protect our forces, and those of our allies, against almost daily mortar attacks. Together with the U.S. Army, we have overcome the technical hurdles and we’re ready to move laser weapons onto the battlefield.”
As the nation’s only laser weapon, the THEL testbed has shot down a variety of threats since 2000, showing its versatility by destroying about three dozen targets, ranging from Katyusha rockets to artillery shells and large-caliber rockets, and now mortar threats as well.
“In the foreseeable future, MTHEL is the only directed energy program we can depend on to counter threats posed by rockets, artillery and mortar rounds,” said Joe Shwartz, MTHEL program manager for Northrop Grumman Space Technology.
“The MTHEL prototype, when developed, will put directed energy into the warfighters’ hands as early as possible. MTHEL could serve as a pathfinder for the Army to incorporate directed energy into its plans because it offers all the building blocks required to insert speed-of-light technology into the U.S. Army’s Future Combat System and Future Force architectures.”
The THEL demonstrator was designed, developed and produced by a Northrop Grumman-led team of U.S. and Israeli contractors for the US Space & Missile Defense Command, Huntsville, Ala., and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
The THEL demonstrator has evolved to the THEL testbed for the MTHEL program.
In addition to Northrop Grumman’s Space Technology and Mission Systems sectors, U.S. companies involved in testbed development are Ball Aerospace, Boulder, Colo., and Brashear LP, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Israeli companies that supported THEL ACTD development are Electro-Optic Industries, Ltd., Rehovot; Israel Aircraft Industries, Ltd., Yehud Industrial Zone; RAFAEL, Haifa; and Tadiran, Holon
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