By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
In the waning weeks of 2013, the U.S. Army tested its newest weapon. The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) looks like it could be a military waste disposal vehicle. But looks can be deceiving; this formidable prototype proved to be a devastating HEL on wheels.
The vehicle-mounted laser was successfully tested at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, located at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The 10-kilowatt laser was perfect in the tests, obliterating nearly 100 mortar rounds and multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, commonly referred to as drones).
Mortars and UAVS were used for the tests to represent the most common types of threats that U.S. and Allied forces encounter on the battlefield.
The HEL MD was developed to perform force protection capabilities against rockets, artillery, mortars, UAVs and cruise missiles using directed energy. Since a laser can move at the speed of light, it is ideal for defending against these low-flying, high velocity attack weapons.
In 2011, the Army conducted tests with a 300-watt laser. The tests conducted in November through December used a considerably more daunting 10-kilowat laser. The current laser is powered by diesel fuel and batteries.
The Army has not yet released distance or endurance capabilities of the 10 kilowatt laser. But the Army has already made plans to develop and test 50kw, and then 100kw lasers.
The one limitation for the HEL MD is that it can only engage one target at a time. However, an enhanced multi-mode radar was used in the tests to queue multiple targets for a multiple succession of strikes by HEL MD.
While the HEL MD program has been expensive to develop, the Army contends that it will prove to be the most cost effective defensive weapon over time. Hel MD can be easily transported, and doesn’t require costly ammunition, once it’s built, as other systems do.