A high energy laser system mounted under the stub wing of a US Army AH-64E Apache has successfully acquired and hit a target during tests of the directed-energy weapon at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The laser firing, conducted by Raytheon with the US Army Apache Program Management Office and the US Special Operations Command in mid-June, was the first time a fully integrated laser system successfully shot a target from helicopter, which Raytheon says proves the feasibility of a laser attack from the Apache.
For the tests, Raytheon coupled the laser system to a variant of its Multi-spectral Targeting System (MTS) sensor to provide targeting information, situational awareness and beam control.
The laser system tracked and directed energy on a stationary target at a line-of-sight range of 1,400m while the Apache was flying at a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and airspeeds.
Data collected from the tests, including the impact of vibration, dust and rotor downwash from the Apache’s main and tail rotor blades, will help Raytheon develop future high-energy laser systems.
“This data collection shows we are on the right track,” said Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems vice president of Advanced Concepts and Technologies Art Morrish. “By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS sensor, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later.”
While in an early experimental phase, should a laser attack system be integrated into an Apache’s weapons suite, a laser strike could prove to be more accurate and effective, while being much cheaper, than firing a Hellfire missile at a target.