Army Laser Demonstrator Integration Work Begins As Vehicle Arrives

Army Laser Demonstrator Integration Work Begins As Vehicle Arrives

By Ann Roosevelt

The Army’s High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) is fast moving toward testing, as Boeing [BA] delivers the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) in preparation for integration with its beam director and beam control system (BCS), officials said.

As next-generation electric lasers move steadily forward toward military power requirements, the HEL TD program, managed by the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT), is a cornerstone of the Army’s high energy laser program. The demonstrator is expected to support the transition to an Army acquisition program.

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The solid state laser weapon would provide speed-of-light, ultra-precise targeting that would dramatically improve warfighters’ lethal capability against a variety of threats and of particular utility in an urban environment where keeping casualties to a minimum is vital.

"The HEMTT arrived in Huntsville [Ala.] last week," Michael Rinn, vice president, Directed Energy Systems, Strategic Missile & Defense Systems at Boeing, said yesterday in an interview.

The 50 cm beam director and BCS are being built at Boeing’s Albuquerque, N.M., facility, where the company has consolidated its directed energy efforts.

"All the hardware goes into the HEMTT this fall," Rinn said.

In 2008, the Army awarded Boeing a $36 million contract to develop the system-engineering requirements for the overall HEL TD system and to complete the design of, then build, test and evaluate, a rugged beam control system on a HEMTT.

The eight-wheel, 500 horsepower HEMTT A4, built by Oshkosh [OSK], was received by Boeing in December 2009 (Defense Daily, Jan 7).

The vehicle now will be integrated with the beam director and BCS, which consists of mirrors, high speed processors and optical sensors. The BCS will acquire, track and select an aimpoint on the target at the same time the system receives the laser beam. The beam is reshaped, aligned and focused on the target.

The laser itself, the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) developed by Northrop Grumman [NOC], is expected to arrive at White Sands in November, a service official said. The JHPSSL will be integrated with the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) system beam director and conduct some static, ground tests ahead of the HEMTT’s arrival. The JHPSSL will then be switched over to run through the vehicle’s beam director and BCS and testing resumes.

Meanwhile, the Army continues to work on reducing the size of the laser and packaging while retaining its power. Last spring, the JHPSSL, for the first time, achieved weapons grade power of interest to the military–more than 100 kw (Defense Daily, March 19, 2009).

SMDC/ARSTRAT headquarters is in Huntsville. The Boeing program directed energy office is in Albuquerque, N.M. Significant Boeing support for HEL TD is provided in Huntsville, Albuquerque and Southern California.

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