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.
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.