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High Power Laser Fired in New Mexico Test Range

Boeing [NYSE: BA] has successfully demonstrated its Re-Deployable solid-state High-Energy Laser System (RHELS) by quickly relocating the prototype weapon system from its Albuquerque development site to a test range, where it tracked ground and airborne targets and fired at a ground target. The goal of this company funded initiative is to demonstrate the maturity and relevance of tactical directed energy weapons in today's battlespace. RHELS also provides key lessons for the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD), a truck-mounted, high-energy laser, counter-RAM weapon system that Boeing is developing for the U.S. Army. Other high energy laser programs led by Boeing include the Airborne Laser, Advanced Tactical Laser, and the Laser Avenger. The company also develops a Tactical Relay Mirror System enhancing the capabilities and coverage of land based and airborne laser systems.

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RHELS integrates a solid-state, thin-disk laser; an acquisition, pointing and tracking capability; beam control, fire control and thermal management systems; and a weapons operator console into a modified 40-foot-long shipping container transportable on a semitrailer.

During the recent two-week-long test the system was deployed to an open range facility in Albuquerque, NM in only a few hours. The system tracked aircraft in flight and other moving and stationary ground vehicles, and successfully fired its laser, hitting a remote target board on the ground. Due to test-range restrictions, the system did not fire at moving targets. In future tests, RHELS will fire its laser at in-flight targets and moving ground vehicles. RHELS is designed to engage rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) projectiles, shoulder-fired missiles and unmanned aircraft, as well as a variety of ground-mobile tactical targets.

"RHELS reduces risk for HEL TD in a controlled but realistic setting," said Lee Gutheinz, Boeing program director for High-Energy Laser/Electro-Optical Systems. "It confirms the functionality of a compact, reliable and highly efficient laser system while maintaining future scalability to many tens of kilowatts of laser power."

According to Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems RHELS is driving tactical directed-energy laser systems out of the laboratory and into the hands of the warfighter. "Developers and warfighters now have the opportunity to test this transformational, ultra-precision directed-energy weapon system at a number of ranges under varying conditions and against a diverse set of targets." said Fitzmire.

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