The first attempt to shoot down rockets using a tactical laser weapon being developed by the USA and Israel is planned for early next year, says the US Army.

The future of US defence contractor TRW's Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) system substantially improved after the first test of the laser subsystem in late June and after TRW dropped threats to stop work on the US Army contract, awarded in 1996.

Under the current schedule for the THEL advanced concept technology demonstration, the laser and pointer-tracker subsystems are being transported to the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, where they will be integrated with the command and control components, including an Israeli-made radar, soon. If all goes well, the weapon will begin testing in early 2000 against Russian-made Katyusha rockets. Plans call for 12-18 months of field testing.

There is no US military requirement for the cumbersome THEL, but the US Army is studying a more mobile variant, the MTHEL.

Source: Flight International