Laser Weapon

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Laser Weapon Destroys Artillery Fire

13:53 06 November 02 
NewScientist.com news service 

The Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser has scored 3Array kills, including
26 Katyusha rockets.

A high-energy laser beam shot down an artillery shell in mid flight during a US military test on Tuesday.

The Army's Space and Missile Defence Command has previously shown that laser systems can be used to track and destroy rockets but this is the first time it has tested such a weapon on the smaller and faster artillery shells.

"Tactical high energy lasers have the capacity to change the face of the battlefield," said Lieutenant General Joseph Cosumano. "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."

Infrared imaging reveals the 
58cm-diameter beam of a THEL 
(Image: TRW)

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. 

The MTHEL system consists of a target tracking radar, a pointer system used to control the position of the laser and a high-powered deuterium fluoride chemical laser. 

Moving target 

In Tuesday's test the laser system was stationary but the army hopes to make the weapon mobile. It ought to fit onto an army humvee, a ship or even a helicopter.

The system was developed by the US Space and Missile Defense Command, the Israeli army and the defence contractor TRW. Tests conducted in August 2000 showed that another laser system, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), could destroy short-range Russian-built Katyusha rockets in flight.

The US army is currently researching a variety of different combat laser systems. It has developed powerful ground- and air-based lasers for targeting long-range missiles, as well as smaller fighter plane systems capable of striking other aircraft or anti-aircraft batteries. 

But some of these laser projects have been criticised for potentially contravening the Geneva Convention's ban on weapons that can blind people. 

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. 

 

Copyright 2010 Tim Stouse
Last modified: December 10, 2010
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