March 14, 2012
DARPA is unveiling a portable laser weapons system, HELLADS, which seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. The new laser application, created by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with a custom power system from Saft Batteries, will help change the way the American military fights future wars. Current military laser systems are bulky contraptions which are mainly the size of a passenger jet, while the proposed DARPA weapon can fit on the back of a flatbed truck. The 150-kilowatt, solid state laser weapon is strong enough to take down drones or other aerial targets; a prototype is expected to be available by the end of 2012.
HELLADS stands for High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System. Since laser beams work at the speed of light, it’s effectively impossible for aerial targets to dodge them. The use of laser beams against land targets is complicated by line-of-sight issues, but the miniaturization of laser technology makes them perfect for use against aerial and naval targets. The demonstration laser for DARPA will be the first 150-kilowatt laser weapon of its kind. DARPA plans to use the completed prototypes against targets at White Sands Missile Range in early 2013–this will include ground testing against rockets, mortars, and surface-to-air missiles.