Previously, we have talked about a few laser-based weapons, ranging from the Xbox controller-guided HEL MD to the ship-based LaWS. However, among such progressive weapon systems, the HELLADS (or High-Energy Liquid Laser Defense System) by General Atomics, might just take the cake – with its robust capacity to discharge 150 kW laser. To give a perspective, the aforementioned HEL MD can emanate a 10 kW energy laser, while the LaWS can shoot a 30 kW photon beam. And beyond just the laser’s energy magnitude, the HELLADS boasts of a ultra-compact size that is only one-tenth in dimensions and weight – if gauged to comparable systems.
Now, given such high-end credentials, one would be inclined to think that HELLADS is still its pre-practical development stage. However, US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has already received permission to carry out field-tests, with the live-fire scenarios expected to commence by summer of this year, in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In fact, according to DARPA, the effective weight-to-energy ratio of a tactical laser system fit for an aircraft should equate to under 5 kg (11 lbs) per kW, while accounting for a size of 3 cubic meters (105 cubic ft). The HELLADS passes all these requirement thresholds, with its ultimate weight pertaining to just 2,000 lbs (907 kg).
According to the General Atomics engineers, such enviable levels of effectiveness were achieved by the world’s highest brightness laser diodes, which in turn is complemented by compact (lithium-ion) battery and thermal storage mechanisms. As a matter of fact, this collective setup has set the world record for the highest laser output power (based on electrically-powered laser), in spite of low power consumption. When translated to figures, the system has the ability to maintain a consistently high-quality beam for up to 30 seconds at a time – which should be enough for malfunctioning of opponent drones and even destruction of potent warheads. And, as for the aforementioned White Sands Missile Range, the laser system is expected to counter a host of ‘enemy’ projectiles, including mortars, rockets and even surface-to-air missiles. As DARPA’s program manager Rick Bagnell made it clear –
“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. 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.”
Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics, further added –
HELLADS represents a new generation of tactical weapon systems with the potential to revolutionize sovereign defenses and provide a significant tactical advantage to our warfighters. It is remarkable to see high-power laser technology mature into an extremely compact weapons system and be deployed for field tests. It will be even more remarkable to witness the impact that this will have on U.S. Defense capability.
Source: General Atomics
Images illustrated by DARPA.