Lynn Savage, email@example.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator is continuing on track to become the centerpiece
of the US Army’s laser-based defense capabilities. The project, which includes
components from Boeing Defense, Space and Security of St. Louis and from Oshkosh
Defense of Wisconsin, features a compact high-energy laser system mounted on a military
truck. When completed, the design is expected to protect soldiers from incoming
rockets and other artillery when their own use of gunfire is restricted.
The weapon system, also called HEL TD, reached a milestone this
summer when Boeing began work on integrating its laser beam control system into
the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck from Oshkosh Defense. Boeing had taken
delivery of the eight-wheel, 500-hp vehicle last December. The integration work
is being performed at Boeing’s facility in Huntsville, Ala.
The High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator being built for the
US Army by Boeing and other companies is designed to protect soldiers from incoming
missiles. Courtesy of Boeing.
In operation, the HEL TD will fire an approximately 100-kW laser
– with a tactically relevant range of up to 10 km – at threatening rockets
and mortar shells. The beam control system from Boeing will simultaneously track
each target, determine an appropriate aiming point and direct the outgoing beam.
The beam will have sufficient power within its range to explode any missiles well
before they can do harm to soldiers on the ground.
The beam control system, which features a beam director assembly
made by L-3 Brashear of Pittsburgh, is scheduled to be completed in 2011. Low-power
tests of the system against real targets also should be carried out during the next
year, according to Blaine Beardsley, Boeing’s program manager on the project.
The tests, which will use a surrogate for the high-energy laser under development,
are scheduled to take place at White Sands Missile Range.
The HEL TD is similar in concept to the earlier Mobile Tactical
High Energy Laser (MTHEL) system, which was discontinued by the Army. However, the
MTHEL depends on a chemical laser that was balkier, required cooling and needed
much larger vehicles for transport. The HEL TD system, on the other hand, uses a
much more compact and stable solid-state laser.
High-power tests of both the beam control system and the actual
Ruggedized Solid State Laser destined for the mobile weapon are to be conducted
“HEL TD is a cornerstone of the Army’s high-energy
laser program and will support the transition to a full-fledged Army acquisition
program,” Beardsley said.