July 14, 2006 Northrop Grumman unveiled its Skyguard laser-based air defense system yesterday offering near-term defense against short-range ballistic missiles, short- and long-range rockets, artillery shells, mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles. Derived from the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), one Skyguard system is capable of establishing a protective shield roughly 10 kilometres in diameter over an airport, military installation, small city or deployed forces.
Skyguard has higher power than heritage systems and a larger beam, making it a much more capable system, the company said.
"We believe that no other weapon of any kind, or any system being developed today, can offer the kind of protection we've proven Skyguard can provide," said Alexis Livanos, president, Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "Skyguard offers the earliest possible implementation of an operational laser weapon system for defense against a wide range of threats."
Like earlier systems developed by Northrop Grumman, Skyguard is a multi-mission, soldier-operated, compact and transportable laser weapon system designed for field deployment and operations.
"The THEL Testbed has demonstrated unequivocally that lasers can engage and destroy rocket, artillery and mortar threats in flight," noted Mike McVey, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Directed Energy Systems business area. "This test bed has been remarkably successful. To date, it has shot down dozens of live threats, including long- and short-range rockets, mortars and artillery projectiles, in very realistic attack scenarios, and under simulated operational conditions such as surprise attacks and mixed threats."
In continuous use at the Army's White Sands Missile Range since it was developed between 1996 and 2000, the THEL Testbed has proven that laser weapons could be applied on the battlefield to protect troops on the ground.
Like the THEL Testbed, Skyguard is a ground-based, modular and flexible system that will support future spiral developments and can accommodate improved laser and beam control technologies as they become available.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology has been developing and demonstrating high-energy lasers for more than 30 years, paving the way for the U.S. to incorporate defensive lasers across all military services - including ships, manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground vehicles - and to meet homeland security needs.