The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, is the result of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command research. (U.S. Army photo by Eric Shindelbower)
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command researchers explore high-energy lasers
By Charles LaMar, SMDC Technical Center
High-energy laser research has been ongoing since the 1960s. But the Army is now getting to the point where demonstration systems are shooting down mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles with high-energy lasers.
“This is a future capability for our Army,” said Keith Jadus, acting director of the lethality portfolio for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. “When you deal with what we call disruptive technology, where the capability is so divergent from how we currently do business, we are required to consider more than just the lethal impacts. We must consider the doctrinal implications on how we fight in the future. Technology such as this creates opportunities to fight a different fight, and can impact the full spectrum of warfare.”
With high-energy lasers, Jadus said there is still a lot to work out.
“We recently had some impressive demonstrations using a commercial laser and supporting beam control, power, and thermal subsystems all integrated onto a mobile military truck, yet we still need to further mature the technology,” he said. “Our laser programs are achieving promising results in the laboratory, and we are developing support subsystems to enable long run-times at these laser’s higher power levels.”
As Army researchers validate the technology, officials remain optimistic about its potential.
The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, is the culmination of the Army high-energy laser technology development and demonstration program, according to officials. It is a completely contained HEL weapon demonstrator mounted on an Army truck with a significant track record for engaging and destroying mortars.