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Laser-gun fired from Apache helicopter successfully hits target

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The US Army has just taken a huge leap forward in the never-ending arms race. They’ve mounted a devastating laser on an Apache AH-64 helicopter.

The initial testing has gone well, and it marks the first time this type of laser has ever been fired from a helicopter. The laser’s beam is invisible and capable of hitting targets on the ground.

Apache with laser mounted gun

The Mobile High Energy Laser (MEHEL) has been built by Raytheon. In conjunction with the Army, they “fired on a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds,” the company announced.

The use of laser technology on the Apache isn’t new. When the helicopter entered service in the 1980’s, it was equipped with low powered lasers used for guiding missiles.

Now, though, the laser itself is the weapon. This type of technology is already in use with the Navy. A 30-kilowatt laser is mounted on the deck of the USS Ponce.

The Raytheon testing took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Targets were hit from a distance of just under one mile.

Lasers are particularly appealing as the light they emit isn’t affected by gravity or winds, the way projectiles can be. Targeting can be very precise with a laser.

“By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS [Multi-Spectral Targeting System], with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later,” said Art Morrish, vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

Matthew Ketner, Branch Chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate, explained to The Daily Mail that the power of the laser can be adjusted for its intended target. During testing, the laser has taken out cruise missiles and mortars, and has been tested on a variety of materials on land-based targets.

As these tests conclude, the Army is looking for other possible uses for the The Mobile High Energy Laser, including the possibility that they might be mounted on vehicles.

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Is This a Sneak Peek at the Israeli Army’s New Tank?

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A small armored wedge with a remote-controlled turret: is this what the Israel Defense Force’s future armored vehicles will look like?

The answer is . . . maybe. At a conference in Israel last month, the former chief of the IDF’s Armored Corps showed a simulation of what Project Carmel—the IDF’s effort to develop technology for the its generation of tanks—might produce.

The virtual vehicle is wedge-shaped, with the hull sloping towards the front. The cannon-armed turret is set at the rear of the hull, with a machine gun mounted on top. In one of the screenshots, below the turret there is what seems to be—and your guess is as good as mine—a row of vision ports (you can see other screenshots here and here).

Israel is developing two next-generation armored vehicles. One is the Eitan, the IDF’s first wheeled armored personnel carrier and the chosen replacement for Israel’s fleet of old and poorly armored M113 APCs. Already in the prototype stage, the eight-wheeled Eitan somewhat resembles the U.S. Stryker. The thirty-ton Eitan will be paired with the much heavier Namer, an APC based on the chassis of the Merkava tank.

However, the simulated vehicle displayed at the conference by retired Brigadier General Didi Ben-Yoash, who is heading Project Carmel, is much more of a tank. It would be tracked rather than wheeled like the Eitan, and would weigh thirty-five to forty tons (compared to a sixty-eight-ton M-1 Abrams). With just two crewmen, the vehicle would mostly function autonomously, including “autonomous navigation and driving, target spotting, aiming, independent firing whenever possible plus other features,” according to Israel Defense magazine.

The “cockpit” of the Israeli vehicle will have space for a third crewman to operate drones and standoff weapons. The tank would also have an active protection system, such as Israel’s Trophy, to deflect antitank missiles and rockets. “The future armored platform will be light, agile, small, relatively inexpensive and simple to operate and designed primarily for operation in urban areas with the hatches closed,” Israel Defense said.

The new tank will not replace the current Merkava 4, which is expected to remain in production until 2020. “Rather, it is a research-and-development program aimed at a state-of-the-art, medium-weight combat vehicle,” according to Defense News.

“It won’t be Merkava 5,” an Israeli official told Defense News. “The operational requirement will be something entirely different.”

Much like the United States and its Ground-X Vehicle Technology project, Israel is aiming to develop smaller, lightweight tanks that can operate in urban terrain. In Israel’s case, the IDF is mindful of the lessons of Operation Cast Lead, the 2014 incursion in Gaza that saw Israeli soldiers challenged by a city with narrow streets and crisscrossed by tunnels. Also in line with U.S. thinking, the Israeli vehicle will be heavily networked into battlefield command and control systems.

The Below the Turret Ring blog offers a thoughtful analysis of what’s known about Project Carmel vehicle so far. The Israeli vehicle is considerably lighter than the forty-eight-ton Armata, which is Russia’s next-generation tank. Its active protection system might stop antitank missiles, but its armor won’t stop heavy cannon rounds from tanks such as the T-72. “The closest Russian counterpart to the Carmel might be the BMPT/BMPT-72 Terminator fire support vehicle designed by the Russian company UVZ,” the blog notes.

In that sense, Project Carmel sounds less like a main battle tank that can replace the Merkava or Abrams in a turret-to-turret armored slugfest. A small tank protected by medium armor and armed with an autocannon and missiles, it would seem to have its own niche as an infantry support vehicle.

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US Army Laser Prototype Intercepts Drones in Mid-Air (VIDEO)

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The US Army’s 60 kilowatt advanced test high energy asset (ATHENA) laser weapon prototype took down five Outlaw unmanned aerial systems over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last month.
The weapons platform is designed by Lockheed Martin, which posted the following video of ATHENA in action.

According to the defense contracting giant, the weapon system makes use of the magnifying glass effect to strengthen the beam applied against targets. It can horizontally rotate to strike targets in any direction; boasts unlimited ammunition by injecting power and removing excess heat from the turret itself; and is compatible for air, land, and sea domains.

On Wednesday, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) chief Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb said the service plans to test a much stronger 150 kilowatt laser weapon system aboard a gunship in 2018. The weapon system, known as the high energy liquid laser area defense system (HELLADS), is the result of a General Atomics project that has received significant development support and funding from the Pentagon’s secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) because it wouldn’t be related to the government if it didn’t have an acronym.

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