The goal of the HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System ) 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.
A unit cell produces a 75 kW beam, and modules can be combined to create beams of 150-300 kW in power with no beam combining like low-power fiber lasers. General Atomics also plans to offer the Gen 3 to the U.S. Army for their High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD) when its power levels increase to 120 kW in the early 2020s.
It has a weight goal of less than 5 kg/kW, approximately 750 kg, or 1650 lbs, an order of magnitude less than current laser weapon systems with similar power. This weight reduction enables tactical aircraft, such as fighters, bomber, tankers, and UAVs to carry the HELLADS. HELLADS will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.
The fourth phase shall consist of a ground-based laser weapon system demonstrator with an approximate average power of 150 kW. The laser weapon system demonstrator constructed in this phase shall employ a design and materials which demonstrate the ability of the final weapon to achieve low specific weight (5 kg/kW) and a compact geometry suitable for deployment on tactical systems. The High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defence System (HELLADS) will weigh just 750 kilograms and fit into a space about the size of a large refrigerator.
General Atomics should have been testing a 150-kilowatt-class laser in 2016 and is moving towards putting a system into an AC130 gunship.
In 2015, General Atomics indicated the HELLAD laser is designed for use on land, sea, and airborne platforms and will be available in four versions at the 50, 75, 150, and 300 kilowatt laser output levels.
If the weight goal for 150 Kw is achieved at 1,650 pounds. A one megawatt laser would have a weight requirement of 11,550 pounds which is right in the Missile Defense Agency’s drone payload requirement.
In 2015, the head of the Missile Defense Agency claimed that a drone flying at 63,000 feet or higher would have a much longer range, in the hundreds of kilometers, due to the lack of laser-degrading particles in the atmosphere at very high altitudes. A scaled-down technology demonstration is scheduled for 2021.