HEL-MD takes out mortars and UAVs with vehicle-mounted laser


December 12, 2013

The HEL MD that took out mortars and UAVs in flight using its vehicle-mounted 10-kW laser (Photo: Boeing)

The HEL MD that took out mortars and UAVs in flight using its vehicle-mounted 10-kW laser (Photo: Boeing)

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High energy laser weapons are a hot area of research with companies including Lockheed Martin, Rheinmetall and Northrop Grumman all developing systems. Boeing is also in the mix with its High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD), which is being put through its paces by the US Army. Between November 18 and December 10, the HEL MD successfully took out mortar rounds and UAVs in flight, marking a first for the vehicle-mounted system.

The recent tests, which took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, followed on from low- and medium-power test demonstrations conducted in 2011. These latest tests were the first full demonstration of the HEL MD in a configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar, the Enhanced Multi Mode Radar, provided support by queuing the laser.

Intended to demonstrate the potential of directed-energy technology for protecting troops against rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM), as well as UAVs and cruise missiles, the multiple test events saw the HEL MD successfully engage over 90 mortar rounds and several UAVs. Army officials say mortars and UAVs are representative of the threats faced by US and allied forces in the battlefield.

The tests involved a 10-kW class laser, however, this will be replaced by a 50-kW laser in the future before that is in turn upgraded to a 100-kW class laser for subsequent demonstrations. Supporting thermal and power subsystems will also be upgraded to meet the needs of the increasingly powerful solid-state lasers, which officials say will increase the effective range of the laser and decrease the amount of time the laser will need to stay on target.

Source: US Army

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Thats what i like to see, Military technology being developed to protect rather than kill.

The future is now!


So guess the drone and missile people are now working on ways to prevent laser kills - gotta love how one technology forces another to innovate. Roll on the stealth cloak or ablative laser reflective armour - or super conductive energy dispersive armour


FabianC: Judging from the position of the laser I have no doubt it could be used to engage soft ground targets as well ;)


Scared now.

Gerry Anderson was so far ahead his time he's making Roddenberry look steam punk


This is another expensive thing the army is wasting money on. It would seem to be so simple to defeat. Four or five mortars firing at or near the same time. The laser couldn't get them all. No telling what these behemoths would cost. At the end of WW2 the Germans used a simple hand launched rocket, The Panzerfaust (sp), to wreak havoc on the Russian tanks during the battle for Berlin. So much cheaper to defeat this weapons effectiveness. This humanitarian attitude about warfare is what got many of our men killed in Vietnam. The expense and trying to invent things and use methods that avoid collateral damage and victims is what is killing many of our men at arms in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq. The people in these countries are responsible. They must bear the responsibilty and consequences. Please dont forget war is killing.


@ myale Everything they do to the laser's target to make it resist laser fire reduces its capability.

@ jvsirman While it is possible to overwhelm any defense it will take more than 5 mortar rounds when it is fielded. Despite the wide availability of man portable antitank weapons tanks are still the king of the battlefield. What got so many of our people killed in Vietnam is not taking the war to the enemy and trying for a negotiated settlement rather than a victory.


jvsirman's observations are valid. Counter technology generally is only a 'step' behind! Just imagine what this kind of scientific advancement and technology were to be put to use for the 'physical' and 'mental' enhancement and upgrading of human kind's current attitude and state of mind in this regard!

Robert Gillis

Put a couple corner reflectors on anything to neutralize the laser mount.

Alonzo Riley

Looks like MTU on wheels. Amazing how long a corporation can dither after technology is transitioned from a USG lab.


Apart from the worry of all that vehicle needed - presumably - to carry the power supply, especially the bigger wattage versions, this would make a fantastic hunting weapon. Pre-BBQ-ed deer (or very 'crispy' rabbit) anyone?

The Skud

It looks rather vulnerable due to its large size and would need to be dug in the middle of the defended area to be effective. Hitting the mortars as they descend means a continuous rain of shrapnel while not destroying the source. Great for slow moving UAVs but I could imagine a large enough wave of cheap small mortars and rockets overwhelming it. I could also see weather severely limiting its use. Can it fire on the move? Maybe someone is working on a much smaller unit that can track the trajectory of the mortars and return fire on the source.


I'm curious how there would fair against gun artillery. If they can knock out artillery shells reliably, that would be a game changer on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul lies within conventional artillery range, and there are thousands of guns buried deep under rock and pre-sighted on the city. In the advent of war, it would take weeks to silence all these guns at a terrible toll in civilian life.

But what if you could park 500 of these vehicles in and around the city. Now S Korea need not fear N Korean actions AT ALL. Think of what a game changer that would be.

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