Laser Weapons Make Their Way Onto US Army Vehicles
Kyle Maxey posted on March 23, 2017 |
MEHEL 2.0 mounted on a Stryker assault vehicle.

MEHEL 2.0 mounted on a Stryker assault vehicle.

On the windy dunes of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the US Army recently demonstrated just how close it is to deploying laser weapons on its ground-based fleet of vehicles.

Over the course of a week-long test, the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) in conjunction with Army Forces Strategic Command equipped a Stryker assault vehicle with a 5kW laser.

The  Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser (MEHEL) 2.0 is an upgraded version of the original 2kW MEHEL armament tested last October. In this latest test, the 5kW MEHEL 2.0 was first tasked with intercepting a downing a single 20lb drone. Then it was pushed even further by being tasked to do the same for an entire squadron.

To shoot down a drone, a laser weapon needs more than just power, it also needs a sophisticated radar system that can perceive potential threats, isolate them, track them and then plot an appropriate kill path.

Fitting that kind of system onto a mobile platform was one of the biggest design challenges associated with the MEHEL 2.0 test.

 "Getting everything integrated on the platform, being able to detect the target with the radar and then engage it with the high energy laser was very successful," said Adam Aberle of the SMDC High Energy Laser Division. "We learned the 5kW laser was able to defeat the targets. We were able to verify and show that we could put a radar and a laser on a platform so it could self-cue to targets and that was very successful.”

The idea of laser weapons has been around for quite some time. In the 1980s, the vision of a Star Wars defense system tantalized President Ronald Reagan and defense contractors alike.

Well, thirty years later those visions might finally be coming into focus. Although laser weapons aren’t likely to be downing ballistic missiles any time soon, (one, they probably can’t, and two, let’s just try and avoid any nuclear exchanges, period) being able to locate and dispatch a UAV is a fairly impressive start to what looks to be a new era in weaponry.

For more military news, read about the U.S. Navy’s farewell to the first nuclear carrier.

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