Directed Energy Weapons
MTHEL - Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser
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THEL White Sands New Mexico
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The Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) program is a key component of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation designed to counter short-range rockets. Israel faces a constant threat from Hezbollah-guerillas staging attacks on its northern border. The THEL, still in developmental stages, will serve to protect Israeli troops and civilians in advent of these affronts.The THEL precursor, the Nautilus, destroyed a short-range rocket in flight during testing in February 1996 at a site in New Mexico, nine months after the project was launched. This was the first time a laser has ever destroyed a ballistic missile.

In April 1996 the U.S. agreed to accelerate high energy laser development after Hezbollah guerrillas fired over two dozen of Katyusha rockets at Israel during its 17-day period operation against the terrorists. Soon after, both President Clinton and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry have pledged to expand work on the THEL.

THEL will be a transportable laser weapon system which will be used by both the Israeli Defense Forces and eventually will have applications for the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command and the Israel Ministry of Defense are managing the program and the test program is conducted at the High Energy Laser Test Facility (HELSTF) in New Mexico.

The system is capable of intercepting both the Katyushas in the hands of the Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Kassam missiles fired at Israel from Gaza, controlled by the Palestinian Authority. These missiles are also liable to be stationed in the West Bank, from where they could threaten Ben Gurion Airport. 

The choice of the Israeli and US companies' concept was a preliminary step in producing an operational prototype of the MTEL, the mobile version of the THEL. Production is scheduled for completion in 2004, and the project is slated to end in 2007. 

The laser could be in use in 2007. Since development began in 1996, the Army, the Israeli Defense Ministry and TRW had spent $250 million on the project through 2002.

SOURCE: Isreali Weapons

A fuzzy, green dot from a laser pointer drifts along the ground and comes to rest on an odd-looking piece of metal. For the next few seconds the light hangs motionless. Then, just as we realize the dot is focused on a hand grenade, the image on our viewing screen dissolves in white light. The really impressive sight comes into view when the screen clears. We see that the concrete pad beneath the blast is scorched, but otherwise perfectly intact. "We burn the least explosive part of the munition," explains Scott McPheeters, our guide for a visit to the Army's laser weapons testing center on the sprawling White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. You may have observed the same low-force blast when as a kid you stupidly tried using a match to light a firecracker that had lost its fuse.
 

Over the next few minutes we watch the Army's Humvee-mounted Zeus laser cast its glowing eye upon an assortment of unexploded ordnance. Seeing Zeus in action, we realize we are looking at more than a fast new tool for safely clearing unexploded ordnance. We are looking at the first major military breakthrough of the 21st century.

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Chemical Lasers

The military began exploring the combat potential of lasers in the 1960s. At that time, researchers focused almost exclusively on chemically activated lasers. Tests at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF) here at White Sands have produced impressive results ever since. As early as 1978, a chemical laser blasted through a tethered helicopter. "MIRACL is a very capable laser," says HELSTF director Tom Hodge, referring to the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser, the workhorse of military laser research. "It is also roughly the size of the power and light plant down the road. It isn't a combat system. It is a testbed." Thus far, the most compact chemical laser to score a kill is the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL), shown here. A few weeks before PM's visit to White Sands, MTHEL became the first laser weapon to track and destroy multiple artillery projectiles in flight at the missile range. The Air Force is using similar chemical laser technology for its Scud-killing airborne laser, which fits inside a modified Boeing 747-400 freighter.

Portable Power

Zeus makes a sharp break with the past. Instead of using highly reactive chemicals to create a laser beam inside a plume of hot gas, Zeus performs its magic inside a special type of glass. Its operating principle is the same as that of all solid-state lasers, including those in CD drives and DVD players. Basically, light from a beefed-up flashbulb sends a stream of photons into nine neodymium-doped glass discs. Inside the discs, the light, which can be thought of as a rabble of raw recruits, becomes organized into a crack drill team--what physicists call a beam of coherent, monochromatic light. Gaining strength as more light is pumped in, the colorless laser beam bursts out one side of the crystal with enough power to heat steel at 200 yards. Add a control system to keep the beam on target and a database that tells the beam which part of the munition to focus upon, and you have the perfect tool for safely defusing unexploded ordnance. Looking beyond ordnance removal, the Army envisions solid-state heat capacity (SSHC) lasers, such as that used in Zeus, as the ultimate defensive weapon. "Rockets, artillery and mortars cause half of the casualties," says Chip Hardy, SSHC laser project manager at HELSTF. Senior military officials are more cautious in their assessment. "Our preference would be to walk away from chemicals," Brig. Gen. John Urias, the U.S. Army's point man on lasers, tells PM. He quickly points out that at their current stage of development, solid-state lasers are hardly troublefree. "If the laser overheats, the system shuts down." Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., which developed the 10-kilowatt SSHC laser for the Zeus system, believe the power can be increased to the 100 kilowatts needed to blast enemy rockets from roughly 5 miles away.

The difficulty in creating a stronger pulse is not in producing a more powerful laser beam, but keeping the laser itself cool. A 100-kilowatt laser will require 1 megawatt of input power. The heat produced when the laser is fired has to be removed to prevent damage. Livermore scientists have solved the problem by developing a way to rapidly cool the laser between firings without losing its structural integrity or lasing characteristics. A lab spokesman says the research team is on target for delivering a demonstration version by 2007.

SOURCE: Isreali Weapons

THEL Shot Down 25 Katyushas
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The Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser is a short-range weapon being developed with Israel, which wants it to destroy Katyusha rockets fired at its border villages by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The weapon looks like a searchlight. In tests during late 2002, the Army used the high-energy laser to heat artillery shells, which exploded in flight. In earlier tests, the laser shot down 25 Katyushas, both singly and in salvos. Artillery shells generate far less heat than rockets do and are more difficult to track. Also, because rockets are pressurized, they are easier to blow up than shells. 

 The MTHEL is being designed to protect soldiers from artillery and mortar rounds and rockets. the laser system can be packed into about three tractor-trailer loads, he said. The next phase will shrink it to less than one load. Ultimately, it will be small enough to mount on a Humvee.

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SOURCE: Isreali Weapons

THEL Fire Control Radar 
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Northrop Grumman, the system prime contractor for the U.S. Army's Tactical High Energy Laser/Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (THEL/ACTD) program, has successfully completed integration and functional testing of the first THEL/ACTD fire unit at the Army's High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The THEL/ACTD fire control radar shown in the photo is used to detect incoming Katyusha rocket threats and hand-off trajectory information on each target to the THEL/ACTD pointer tracker subsystem. The fire control radar is a key part of the THEL/ACTD command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) subsystem. 

SOURCE: Isreali Weapons

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