Boeing has successfully demonstrated its redeployable high-energy laser system (RHELS) by quickly relocating the prototype weapon system from its Albuquerque development site to a test range, where it tracked ground and airborne targets and fired at a ground target.
RHELS integrates a solid-state, thin-disk laser; an acquisition, pointing and tracking capability; beam control, fire control and thermal management systems; and a weapons operator console into a modified 40ft-long shipping container transportable on a semitrailer.
Boeing began the two-week-long test on 23 February by packing up RHELS at its Albuquerque facility, moving it to a local government facility in Albuquerque and setting it up there, all in only a few hours.
With the system status re-established, RHELS then tracked in-flight aircraft and moving and stationary ground vehicles, and successfully fired its laser, hitting a remote target board on the ground. The only reason the system did not fire at moving targets was due to limits at the testing range.
Vice president and programme director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems, Garry Fitzmire said that RHELS demonstrates that a solid-state, high-energy laser weapon system can be transportable, rugged, supportable and affordable.
“RHELS transportability means developers and warfighters have the opportunity to test this transformational, ultra-precision directed-energy weapon system at a number of ranges under varying conditions and against a diverse set of targets,” Fitzmire said.
In future tests, RHELS will fire its laser at in-flight targets and moving ground vehicles. RHELS is designed to engage rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) projectiles, shoulder-fired missiles and unmanned aircraft, as well as a variety of ground-mobile tactical targets.
RHELS is a Boeing-funded initiative to show that directed energy weapons are maturing and are relevant to today’s battlefield. It also provides key lessons for the high-energy laser technology demonstrator (HEL TD), a truck-mounted, high-energy laser, counter-RAM weapon system that Boeing is developing for the US Army.
By Daniel Garrun.