Helicopter tests laser weapon in southern New Mexico

(ENLARGE ABOVE – –  A high-energy laser mounted on an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter acquired and hit an unmanned target during a recent firing test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test was conducted by Raytheon and the U.S. Army Apache Program Management Office, in collaboration with U.S. Special Operations Command – – Illustration, courtesy of Raytheon)

by Bob Martin, KRQE – – Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 26, 2017

White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico  (KRQE) :

An Apache AH-64 attack helicopter flying over White Sands Missile Range recently became the first rotorcraft to fire an integrated laser weapon at a target.

Laser weapons have been fired previously from airplanes, ground vehicles and ships, but this was the first firing of a laser weapon by a rotorcraft at a target.

Raytheon, the U-S Army and the U-S Special Operations Command conducted the tests to evaluate the effects of dusty rotor downwash and helicopter vibration on the laser’s operation.

Raytheon says a stationary target was identified by the system and hit by the laser about a mile away from the laser gunship.

In a news release, Raytheon said the “fully integrated laser system successfully shot a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds, proving the feasibility of laser attack from Apache.”





“Modern attack helicopters are all about precision engagement capabilities. Unless you want a fairly large explosion that will obliterate a small building or a few vehicles, the best weapons available to Apache crews are the helicopter’s 30mm cannon and the recent addition of laser-guided rockets. Yet even these surgical weapons, with their highly-localized effects on the battlefield, still use high-explosives to make a big bang; if you want to be extremely precise with almost no chance of collateral damage, lasers are the way to go.

If you want a tactical aircraft fighting in a combat zone to destroy a piece of equipment, like a power generator, but without destroying the structure it’s attached to, or to disable a vehicle without killing anyone standing around it, you’re out of luck unless you have a laser. With this in mind, there’s a clear and highly relevant requirement for a weapon that can accomplish such feats, a requirement as yet unfulfilled.

Think about the ability to target a small group of individuals, or even a single individual, on a street without hurting other innocent bystanders going about their business just yards away. Being cooked by an invisible laser beam over the span of a few seconds would be a pretty nasty way for even a bad guy to go, but at least those close by would not have to be sacrificed in the process.

In another earlier piece on solid state airborne tactical lasers I wrote:

Precision weaponry has changed the way we fight wars and has helped greatly when it comes to avoiding non-combatant casualties, yet even low-yield warheads inside the smallest of guided bombs and missiles explode and can cause unintended harm. If aircrew could just target a person holding a weapon, or a small group persons holding weapons, and take them out using ‘non-kinetic’ weaponry, than we can save a lot of innocent lives, not to mention money, as even a mass-produced AGM-114 Hellfire missile each cost tens of thousands of dollars per round.

Such a capability would be somewhat analogues to a phaser from Star Trek and just the psychological affect on the enemy knowing that they could erupt in flames at any moment while operating in the open could potentially be a game changer. It could also greatly alleviate the risk to human shields as air power may not be able to destroy a large target that has innocents commingled with the enemy inside, but it could shut down that facility’s operations long enough for ground forces to take the building down just by parking a aircraft with a solid-state laser above. If anyone has a weapon outside the facility, or even comes and goes from it, they could be cooked in an instant with almost no chance of unintended injuries or deaths.

The same can be said when it comes to eliminating threats emanating from critical infrastructure or buildings with cultural significance. If there is a sniper atop a Mosque, than an aircraft equipped with a laser could disable or kill just that sniper, leaving the Mosque totally intact.”




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