THEL passes first Katyusha shoot down test
8 June 2000http://defence-data.com/storypic/thelshootdown.jpg [not image]
TRW, the US Army and the Israel Ministry of Defence (IMoD) scored a big hit when a test of the US Army's Tactical High Energy Laser/Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (THEL/ACTD) destroyed a Katyusha rocket in flight.
THEL, the world's first high-energy laser weapon system designed for operational use, shot down a rocket carrying a live warhead during a high-power laser tracking test conducted as part of the ongoing THEL/ACTD integration process.
THEL shoot down sequence
For this first test of THEL/ACTD's defensive capabilities, an armed Katyusha rocket was fired from a rocket launcher placed at a site in White Sands Missile Range. Seconds later, the THEL/ACTD, located several miles away at the Army's High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), detected the launch with its fire control radar, tracked the streaking rocket with its high-precision pointer tracker system, then engaged the rocket with its high-energy chemical laser. Within seconds, the 10-foot-long, 5-inch-diameter rocket was exploded.
The THEL/ACTD was designed, developed and produced by a TRW-led team of US and Israeli contractors for the US Army Space & Missile Defense Command and the Israel Ministry of Defence. Requirements for the system have been driven in part by Israel, which needs to protect civilians living in towns and communities along its northern border against rocket attacks by terrorist guerrillas.
"This shoot-down is an exciting and very important development for the people of Israel,'' said Major General Dr. Isaac Ben-Israel, Director of MAFAT, Israel Ministry of Defence. "With this success, THEL/ACTD has taken the crucial first step to help protect the communities along our northern border against the kind of devastating rocket attacks we've suffered recently.''
According to Tim Hannemann, executive vice president and general manager, TRW Space & Electronics Group, the THEL/ACTD system prime contractor, the shoot-down represents significant advancements in the maturity of engineering technologies used to design and build deployable directed energy weapon systems.
A shoot down in February 1996 of a Katyusha rocket, as part of the Nautilus laser test program, used the Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) and the SeaLite Beam Director installed at HELSTF, both large facility-based laser and beam control systems
By contrast, Hannemann said, THEL/ACTD was designed and produced as a stand-alone defensive weapon system. Its primary subsystems have been packaged in several transportable, semi-trailer-sized shipping containers, allowing it to be deployed to other test or operational locations.
The United States currently has no weapon systems capable of protecting soldiers or military assets involved in regional conflicts against short-range rocket attacks. Conventional missile-based defence systems, such as the Army's Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), are designed to defend against longer-range threats such as Scud missiles. By comparison, tactical directed energy systems such as THEL/ACTD send out 'bullets' at the speed of light, allowing them to intercept and destroy 'last minute' or low-flying threats such as rockets, mortars or cruise missiles on a very short timeline. `
[Edited by Serge Pod (09-06-2000 at 15:08).]