by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Jul 28, 2010
A powerful laser weapon that can fit on a light truck is set to be the military's answer to the dilemma of overreacting to enemy attack and harming friendly forces in the process.
The laser-beam weapon, being developed by the U.S. Army and Boeing, is seen to be a more focused alternative to artillery or rocket response to enemy action that usually results in innocent civilians or friendly forces being caught up in the onslaught.
Death and injury among third-party individuals near or around a scene of battle is one of the classic scenarios that carries with it acute embarrassment -- or worse -- for both military leaders and politicians. The new laser weapon being developed aims to avoid, if not completely eliminate, that eventuality.
The High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator system will consist of a laser weapon system mounted on an Oshkosh Defense military truck. Traveling at the speed of light the laser beam will hit targets with unprecedented swiftness. And no bullets will rain down on anyone in the process, says Boeing's Marc Selinger in an article on the innovation.
"This transformational, ultra-precision capability will dramatically improve warfighters' ability to counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles," said Michael Rinn, vice president of Boeing Directed Energy Systems.
Under contract to the Army, Boeing in 2009 completed the design of a laser beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, a widely used eight-wheel, 500-horsepower military vehicle built by Oshkosh Defense in Oshkosh, Wis. The truck will be shipped to Boeing's facility in Huntsville, Ala., this summer for integration with the BCS.
An artist's rendering depicts the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator. A key "subassembly" of the BCS is the beam director, a dome-shaped turret that will extend above the roof of the vehicle when it engages targets. The beam director, which can rotate 360 degrees, will contain a set of mirrors that point and focus the beam. Other BCS subassemblies will focus the laser beam and transfer it from the laser to the beam director. The BCS also will find and track targets.
HEL TD testing against real targets but using a low-power "surrogate" for the high-energy laser, is scheduled for fiscal year 2011 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The tests are meant to demonstrate the ability to target and engage moving projectiles with the HEL TD system. The truck will later be equipped with a high-energy laser that can destroy those targets, Boeing said.
"These efforts could pave the way for further development of the technology -- and ultimately deployment on the battlefield," said Bill Gnacek, the U.S. Army's HEL TD program manager. "Our main goal is to transition this HEL TD technology into a formal acquisition program and eventually place it in the hands of Army commanders, providing them an effective, lethal capability to counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles."
Learn about laser weapon technology at SpaceWar.com
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