Defense contractor Raytheon has announced the successful completion of a groundbreaking test recently at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, where an Army Apache AH-64 attack helicopter conducted the first ever helicopter-based firing of a High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon.
The test was carried out in partnership with the U.S. Army Apache Program Management Office and U.S. Special Operations Command.
“It was the first time a fully integrated laser system successfully shot a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds, proving the feasibility of laser attack from Apache,” says Raytheon.
“The system tracked and directed energy on a stationary target at a slant range of 1.4 kilometers (slant range is the line-of-sight distance between two points at different levels),” they added.
Missiles are very expensive, and the operator only has a limited number available (Apache can hold 16 Hellfire missiles). They can cause quite a lot of collateral damage too, so the Defense Department has been looking at laser weapon tech for some time now.
“Our goal is to pull the future forward,” said Art Morrish, vice president of Advanced Concepts and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “This data collection shows we’re on the right track.”