Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD) is currently being tested by the US Army. The most recent series of tests was carried out between the 18th of November and 10th of December at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
High energy lasers have been an area of interest for many companies lately and there are other projects involving their utilization too. What makes the HEL-MD tests different is that it is the first time a vehicle mounted system successfully took out mortar rounds and UAVs in mid-flight. The tests carried out this year are follow-ups of the low and medium-powered laser tests carried out in 2011. The latest test of the HEL-MD was also the first time that the laser and beam director were mounted on a vehicle to provide mobility for the system. Laser targeting was done by a surrogate radar called the Enhanced Multi Mode Radar.
The main purpose of the tests was to show that directed-energy technology can be used to protect troops on the battlefield. The technology can be used against rockets, artillery, mortar, cruise missiles and UAVs. With mortar and UAVs being claimed as representatives of the hazards that a soldier must face on the battlefield today, the HEL-MD could provide a great amount of assistance and greatly reduce casualties.
The tests involved a 10-kW laser which will subsequently be replaced by a 50-kW and 100-kW system for future demonstrations. Appropriate thermal and power subsystems will also be used as the laser’s power is increased. The upgraded solid-state lasers will require less contact time with the target and have a greater range than the one used in the latest tests. The HEL-MD shows us just how advanced the weapons of today have become and how they can save countless lives.