REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Aug. 21, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- The U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD) have selected a Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) design concept for the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (MTHEL) prototype, a laser weapon capable of shooting down short-range rockets and artillery projectiles in flight.
"MTHEL represents a transformational weapon system -- the first mobile directed energy weapon that will be able to destroy tactical airborne threats in midair," said Pat Caruana, Northrop Grumman Space Technology vice president for missile defense. "The system meets critical air and missile defense needs for both the U.S. Army and IMoD and represents the culmination of over 30 years of Northrop Grumman investments in high-energy lasers."
The choice of a design concept is a key step preceding development of the MTHEL prototype, which will take place during fiscal years 2004 through 2007.
Caruana noted MTHEL's ability to destroy airborne targets has been proven by the THEL/Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (ACTD), a Northrop Grumman-developed system now at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In tests, THEL/ACTD (now called the MTHEL Testbed) has shot down 28 Katyusha rockets, fired singly and in salvos, and five artillery projectiles.
Selection of the Northrop Grumman MTHEL design concept resulted from an alternate systems review held in June in Huntsville, Ala. U.S. Army and IMoD officials selected the design from among several alternatives presented. The Army's Air, Space and Missile Defense Program Executive Office administers and executes the MTHEL program, using both Army and IMoD funding.
"MTHEL will bring speed-of-light defense to the battlefield, but it will act and feel like any other air defense system, said Joe Shwartz, Northrop Grumman's MTHEL program manager. "It will be operated by soldiers and supported in the field, mostly by the use of existing maintenance and logistical infrastructure. This enables both a seamless integration into current warfighting concept of operations, while at the same time positioning the Army for the future."
Laser weapons operate by projecting a highly focused, high-power beam of light that delivers enough energy on a rocket or artillery projectile to explode it in midair. The cost per shot, primarily cost of the chemicals used to fuel the laser, is expected to be in the thousands of dollars-far less expensive than the cost of kinetic energy defense systems, in which a sophisticated rocket or projectile collides with a target to destroy it. Kinetic energy kill vehicles are not reusable.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology is the pre-eminent builder of laser weapon systems. It is a leader in the development of high-energy lasers, both chemical and solid state.
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