THEL Mobile / Tactical High Energy Laser
Mobile / Tactical High Energy Laser
(M-THEL) Technology Demonstration Program
Developer: Northrop Grumman Corp.
The fixed-site version Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) THEL, was developed by TRW Inc. under a $89 million contract. During several tests in the USA, the system has shot down 25 Katyusha rockets, but has not been deployed.
The system also known as Nautilus, has not progressed much since the end of the demonstration program, since the lack of mobility and the fixed base limitations of the system made in insufficient to counter long range rockets currently employed by Hezbulla at the Israeli northern border with Lebanon. While Katyusha rockets had a range of 20 kilometers, and could hit only a few urban targets, the long range rockets have a range of 70 kilometers and can hit strategic facilities and large urban areas in the Haifa bay. A laser-based defense against such weapons must rely on more systems, which could be rapidly mobilized to protect a much larger area. Such design is currently being implemented under the MTHEL program. Similar threats could face US contingencies in other parts of the world. This requirement is driving the need for an air-mobile version of the beam weapon. In July 2006, Northrop Grumman unveiled the SkyGuard system, based on the THEL, designed to protect airfields and fixed sites from rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) attacks.
Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL)
A study completed in 2001 concluded that the rocket interceptor has "lots of promise" and further development should be pursued, primarily in enabling system's mobility. Mobility considerations for the future mobile systems include system mobility (road and off road capabilities) and air transportability, including the type of transport aircraft it should fit on (C-130, C-17 or C-5). Conclusions of these studies will define the necessary size- reduction technologies required for the future version.Further studies of the system include the use of such laser beam weapons to provide "hard kill" defenses against artillery projectiles, UAVs and cruise missiles.
During a recent test conducted on Aug. 24, 2004 the system shot down multiple mortar rounds, demonstrating potential its battlefield application for to protection against common threats. The test represented actual mortar threat scenarios. Targets were intercepted by the THEL testbed and destroyed; both single mortar rounds and salvo were tested.
Keep in mind that this type of system is still in the R&D phase and is only capable of area defense. (a few miles).