THEL Scores Multiple-Rocket Shoot-Down
by Robert Wall
08/29/00 02:49:52 PM U.S. EDT
The U.S. Army’s Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) on Monday completed its first multiple-rocket shoot-down, destroying Katyusha rockets in flight. The test success follows the first destruction of a single projectile in-flight on June 6. Both tests took place at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The critical aspect of Monday’s test was that both rockets were airborne at the same time when they were engaged by the ground-based high energy laser system built by TRW. Two Katyushas were involved in the test. A targeting radar initially detects the rockets and slews the laser towards it. The laser energy is then used to detonate the warhead.
The THEL system is being developed by the Pentagon for Israel to protect that country’s northern border against Katyusha rocket attack from Hizbollah forces in Lebanon. Israel’s decision to pull out of southern Lebanon has only increased that country’s interest in the system, a U.S. Army official said.
The system was to be deployed to Israel soon after the multiple-target intercept, but Pentagon officials are now considering keeping it in the U.S. as a test bed. Even if a decision to transfer the hardware to Israel is made, the handover wouldn’t occur until next year because the Army needs to refine the system based on lessons learned in recent tests, according to a program official.
Israel and the Pentagon are in the final phases of an agreement to build a modular version of the THEL system. The current structure is relatively large and cumbersome to move. Furthermore, the U.S. Army is exploring a concept development for an airborne system that would support special operations forces. Aviation, Defense and Space News, Jobs, Conferences by AVIATION WEEK