The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and Raytheon have demonstrated the ability to fire a laser from a US Army Apache AH-64 helicopter, although USSOCOM is still likely years away from arming rotary-wing aircraft with directed energy weapons, industry experts have reported.
The test was an example of innovative collaboration under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between industry and the US Department of Defense (DoD) to advance directed energy technologies, specifically on rotary-wing aircraft, a USSOCOM spokesperson told Jane’s .
“Industry brought a system ready for test, while USSOCOM and the army collaborated on aircraft and ranges to support testing. A specific laser power was not an objective of this test. This test collected data on the helicopter environment's effects on laser beam control and beam quality,” the spokesperson said.
The demonstration, which Raytheon announced in late June, took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and marked the first time that a fully integrated High Energy Laser (HEL) system engaged and fired on a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes, and air speeds, the company said in a statement.
“Raytheon [provided] an integrated HEL weapon system solution including beam control, fire control, power, and thermal,” Art Morrish, vice president of Advanced Concepts and Technology, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, told Jane’s .
The HEL system operated using aircraft power for the demonstration, according to USSOCOM.
The flight test also demonstrated the capability of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS) for the Apache, Morrish, added.
“The test was against target boards on a test range. Test engineers use these target boards for engineering data collection to accurately measure laser beam quality on target,” the USSOCOM spokesperson said. “We are carefully reviewing the results of the test, which are generally positive.”
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