The Army in March used its Solid State Laser Testbed (SSLT) to successfully engage and destroy a tactical drone in a series of tests.

Army spokesman John Cummings said last week the tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., included multiple flights for tracking and targeting before engagement. Static tests on similar material were also performed before the shoot-down, Cummings said, to determine the level of power necessary to effect a kill.

Cummings said Friday this 50 kW-class test using the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) represented the highest power solid state laser engagement of an airborne target and demonstrated the unique ability of the test facility. The SSLT is a laser test bed the Army designed and built to investigate the lethality and the atmospheric propagation of high-energy, solid state lasers, according to Cummings.

The Army in the fall will use the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) to conduct dynamic tests against small caliber mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Cummings said these dynamic tests will include tracking, acquiring and engaging targets with a 10 kW laser mounted on a vehicle at White Sands. HEL MD is a truck-mounted, directed energy system designed to improve the warfighter’s ability to counter rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned aerial threats, according to Cummings. There is also an option to incorporate a more powerful laser on HEL MD, Cummings said.

Boeing [BA] is the prime contractor for HEL MD, Cummings said.

Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, head of the service’s Space and Missile Command and Army Forces Strategic Command and Joint Functional Component Command–Integrated Missile Defense, said at a Capitol Hill breakfast June 4 the Army is developing high energy laser technology to bridge capability gaps for regional threats and provide force protection. Formica said high energy laser mobile capability would be effective against low-trajectory rockets, artillery and mortar.

Formica said there are two aspects to developing this technology. First is maturing the laser technology and demonstrating the capability to defeat the threat, he said, while the second, the Solid State Laser Testbed, helps provide the capabilities to work on a tactically mobile platform.

“Of course, the challenge is to get the right amount of power to have sufficient laser on this tactically mobile platform so we can defeat rockets, artillery and mortar,” Formica said. “(My) view is that if we can demonstrate and get success with directed energy and rocket, artillery and mortar, that can spur continued technological development that could potentially lead to directed energy utility in missile defense.”

Boeing said in October it was working under the Army’s $16.2 million HEL MD Phase II High-Power Testing follow-on contract. Boeing was to incorporate a 10 kW, solid state laser with the HEL MD system. The laser and subsystem was to be integrated aboard an Oshkosh [OSK] Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) (Defense Daily, Oct. 4).

MBDA Germany also is working on a high-energy laser demonstrator. The conglomerate said in November it used 40 kW of laser power to successfully act on airborne targets at a range of over 2,000 meters (Defense Daily, Nov. 9).

Northrop Grumman [NOC] once had a role in high energy laser demonstration. The company said in 2008 it performed all preliminary design review (PDR) requirements for what was then called HEL technology demonstrator (HEL TD). The work was performed under a 2007 first phase contract.

The basic research program is to provide the Army with a pre-prototype directed energy demonstrator within about four years (Defense Daily, Aug. 29).