US military tests laser weapon fired from helicopter

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Life imitates science fiction: The U.S. Army and Raytheon have successfully tested the use of a laser weapon, fired from an Apache helicopter.

The U.S. Army and Raytheon have completed a flight test of a high-energy laser system on an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter that was deemed successful, according to a Raytheon statement Monday.

The recent test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, “marks the first time that a fully integrated laser system successfully engaged and fired on a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds,” the company said. Raytheon said the test achieved all primary and secondary goals that show a high-energy laser, or HEL, on an attack helicopter can provide high-resolution, multiband targeting sensor performance and beam propagation.

I especially like the name they have given the system: HEL.



  • Cotour

    I would like to know some specs.

    Effective range? Wattage?

    Design, develop and build the most frightful and terrible machines that are possible, scare the heck out of your potential opposition and hopefully never have to use them.

  • Garry

    Off the top of my head, there are many other specs we should know, and I imagine that the answers to these would lead to more questions:

    How long does the laser have to be focused on the target to cause what level of damage on what type of target?

    Is the platform stable enough to allow the focus to be held for a sufficiently long time?

    Can the weapon engage a moving target?

    What is the rate of fire / how long between shots?

    What kind of external power is required?

    How many shots can be conducted before recharging or other operation is required?

    What countermeasures are available for the target? Mirrors?

    How does the weapon work in reduced visibility?

    How much training and skill is required to employ the weapon? Coordination with others?

    What kind of protective gear (special goggles, etc.) is required of the operator? For others on the battlefield, who may or may not know that the weapon is being employed?

    On another note, there was a time when my personal HEL was my Home Equity Loan.

  • Cotour

    All great questions, I want to know the answers and I am certain that any potential opponent is also interested in the answers.

    And yes, Home Equity Loans can be a kind of HEL. (Unless you took your equity and bought Amazon years ago and now do not have to worry about such mundane things)

  • wayne


    Just search YouTube for the phrase “tactical high energy laser.” Not a whole lot of specs are listed, but numerous video’s from Boeing & Raytheon on a number of previous configurations of these. The HEL acronym apparently covers more than one type of “high energy laser.” (and they are a combined laser + tracking unit.)

    (>There is video of this specific test on Youtube.)

    There’s an existing, but not field-deployed, land-mobile version called “MTHEL,” it can explode mortars in mid flight and burn holes into small rockets. It can continuously engage multiple targets and continuously fire.
    -None of these HEL variants are pulsed, they automatically acquire the target and continuously burn into it, until it explodes.

    This helicopter based unit is a shrunk down version of the land mobile model, which has been in development since 2003-ish. (don’t quote me on that)

    (I would defer to anyone, who follows this more closely.)

  • wayne

    Raytheon Apache Test
    june 26, 2017

    This isn’t a “new weapon,” per se, but now— it’s small enough to use on a helicopter.

  • wayne

    The Navy, is already on board with HEL.

    “US Navy’s laser cannon blows up boats, drones in Persian Gulf”
    from RT, circa 2014

    “The US Navy’s fully operational LaWS laser uses six commercial welding lasers to obliterate aerial and seaborne targets.”

    (I especially like the phrase, “fully operational.”)

  • Max

    Technology is advancing to the point that it looks like science fiction. (The future terminator world comes to mind) i’m sure there is a model adapted to a drone already in service.
    Here is a helicopter attack old style, and Venezuela blames Trump. Why not? The entire world blames Trump for everything now days.

    How long until we look back at the good old days when the victims of state had a chance to fight back…

  • Rod Packwood

    If you can see it…you can kill it.

  • LocalFluff

    What about using a mirror as defense? Zip-zap.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff asked: “What about using a mirror as defense? Zip-zap.
    That might work, but it is impractical, because then your vehicle, building, soldier, etc. would look just like … um … its surroundings.


    I think I just invented a new kind of camouflage, with the added benefit of defeating HEL fire (and brimstone). Who needs a desert uniform and a jungle uniform when the Camo-mirror Uniform (patent pending) changes with the surroundings?

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