Army’s solid-state Laser testbed undergoes trials

This beam director was used for the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser and has been reformatted to support the Solid State Laser Testbed Experiment at High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo)

This beam director was used for the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser and has been reformatted to support the Solid State Laser Testbed Experiment at High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo)

By Jason B. Cutshaw, SMDC

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command has used a solid-state high-energy laser testbed to engage and destroy threat representative targets in tactical scenarios.

The Solid-State Laser Testbed, or SSLT, is part of an Army test designed to investigate military applications and validate the operational utility of high-energy lasers. Results from testing in April have confirmed that solid-state lasers can negate unmanned aircraft vehicles and rocket, artillery and mortar threats in flight.

“The Army-Northrop Grumman team put in a lot of work to complete these impressive demonstrations,” said Richard P. De Fatta, director of theSMDC Emerging Technology Directorate. “We still have a lot of lethality and performance data to collect for model refinement, but the success of these demonstrations represent extremely important technical milestones. These demonstration results reduce overall program and technical risk while increasing confidence in the community that we can deliver this revolutionary capability to our Soldiers.”

SSLT will be used to evaluate the capability of a high-energy solid-state laser to accomplish a variety of missions. Those results will be the basis for directing future development of solid-state lasers for use on the battlefield.

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Lethality on a Beam of Light

The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, is the result of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command research. (Photo by Eric Shindelbower)

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.

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