Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tactical High Energy Laser
The cooperative Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) Demonstrator ACTD was initiated by a memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Government of Israel on July 18, 1996. The THEL is a high-energy laser weapon system that uses proven laser beam generation technologies, proven beam-pointing technologies, and existing sensors and communication networks to provide a new active defense capability in counterair missions. The THEL can provide an innovative solution not offered by other systems or technologies for the acquisition and close-in engagement problems associated with short- to medium-range threats, thereby significantly enhancing coverage of combat forces and theater-level assets. The THEL low-cost per kill (about $3,000 per kill) will also provide a cost-effective defense against low-cost air threats. It features up to 60 shots without reloading and a P(k) near 1 at ranges of some 5 km.
A joint U.S.-Israeli program has been initiated to develop a THEL demonstrator using deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. The U.S. and Israeli THEL team members have completed a Concept Design Review in Israel for the demonstrator. Approximately 21 months will be required to design and build the system, followed by 12 to 18 months of field testing at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility in Israel. This program will deliver a THEL Demonstrator by March 1998 with a limited operational capability to defend against short-range rockets. The THEL weapon system concept definition studies using advanced technologies were awarded to four contractors on September 30, 1996. The prime contractor for THEL is Northrop Grumman (formerly TRW.)
THEL conducted test firing in FY1998, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was planned in FY1999.
As the head of the Missile Defense Command , Army Lt. General Joseph Cosumano explains, "We've shown that even an artillery projectile hurtling through the air at supersonic speed is no match for a laser."
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