High powered solid state 150 kilowatt combat laser field testing this summer

DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests. The achievement of government acceptance for field trials marks the end of the program’s laboratory development phase and the beginning of a new and challenging set of tests against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

“The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,” said Rich Bagnell, DARPA program manager. “The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.”

Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is expected to begin this summer as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use. The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics.

The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats. With a weight goal of less than five kilograms per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic meters for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.

High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)

HELLADS program had funding of 26.6 million in 2014 and 14.1 million in 2015.

Description: The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system that will provide an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems, in addition to enabling high precision/low collateral damage and rapid engagement of fleeting targets for both offensive and defensive missions. Advancements in beam control and other subsystems that are required for the practical integration of a laser weapon into existing tactical platforms will be explored. With the assistance of the Services, the HELLADS program will pursue the necessary analysis, coordination, and design activity for a prototype laser weapon system incorporating the HELLADS laser system and the ABC turret into air-, ground-, or sea-based tactical vehicles. While the prototype laser weapon system module is in design and development, the HELLADS 150 kilowatt (kW) laser will be made available for demonstration opportunities and transition to the Army, Navy, or Air Force.

FY 2014 Accomplishments:
Completed laboratory checkout and government acceptance of 150 kW laser; packaged laser and shipped for integration into the high power laser demonstrator system.
– Continued risk reduction test of tracking systems for dynamic targets, demonstrated aim point accuracy to support lethal power delivery to test targets in representative battlefield environments.
– Completed high power optics insertion, safety system checkouts, range communications protocol check, and initial high power static operation of laser weapon demonstrator to verify the laser and its subsystems can safely demonstrate lethal effects on mortars and rockets.
– Commenced live fire tests against rocket and mortar fly-outs to demonstrate lethal laser power at mission-relevant ranges.
– Completed preliminary design and detailed design of laser weapon module prototype’s subsystems for integration on a specific air-, ground-, or sea-based tactical vehicle.

FY 2015 Plans:
– Complete live fire tests against rocket and mortar fly-outs to demonstrate lethal laser power at mission-relevant ranges.
– Transport demonstrator laser from Army mission (rocket/mortar) relevant ground test site to mountain peak test site to mimic Air Force missions for precision air-to-ground and airborne self-defense demonstrations.