Laser Weapon Destroys Artillery Fire
13:53 06 November 02
A high-energy laser beam shot down an artillery shell in mid flight during a US military test on Tuesday.
A beam of photons fired from a Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (MTHEL) destroyed the airborne shell well short of its intended target at the White Sands test range in New Mexico.
Army uses laser to shoot down artillery
Wednesday, November 6, 2002 Posted: 11:12 AM EST (1612 GMT)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. Army used a high-energy laser to shoot down an artillery shell in mid-flight on Tuesday in a defense industry breakthrough, the Army and the manufacturer said.
The Army and TRW Inc., which developed the weapon, said in a joint statement that the laser tracked, locked onto and fired a burst of concentrated light energy photons at the speeding shell over the White Sands test range in New Mexico.
"Seconds later, at a point well short of its intended destination, the projectile was destroyed," the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command said.
The Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL) is being developed by TRW for the Army and the Israeli Defense Ministry. Lasers have been used in past tests at the range to shoot down slower Katyusha Rockets similar to those fired at Israel by militant guerrilla groups in neighboring Lebanon.
"This shootdown shifts the paradigm for defensive capabilities. We've shown that even an artillery projectile hurtling through the air at supersonic speed is no match for a laser," said Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, head of the missile defense command.
"Tactical high energy lasers have the capacity to change the face of the battlefield," he added.
Burning up warheads in flight
The laser was fired from a static testbed in a carefully controlled test, but TRW officials said they looked forward to producing a truly mobile version as the program progressed.
Tuesday's test — the first time a laser had shot down an artillery shell — was part of a new series to determine MTHEL requirements and demonstrate the system's capabilities against a wide range of airborne targets.
In earlier tests in 2000 and 2001 the testbed focused on the threat of artillery rockets and shot down 25 Katyushas fired singly and in salvos.
The U.S. military has shot down dummy intercontinental missile warheads in tests both inside and outside the atmosphere using projectile weapons and is also examining the possible use of long-range lasers to burn up such warheads in flight.
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