Laser on Apache attack chopper passes first test

Tyler Rogoway:
We reported on the concept and test program over a year ago, and now it has finally happened—a AH-64 Apache equipped with a tactical high-energy laser (HEL) successfully took out targets on the White Sands Missile Range. The test is a major breakthrough in directed energy weapons and rotary-wing air warfare to say the least. Above all else it is a glimpse of what's to come on the battlefields of the near future.
"A high energy laser mounted on an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter acquired and hit an unmanned target. The test was conducted by Raytheon and the U.S. Army Apache Program Management Office in collaboration with U.S. Special Operations Command at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

It was the first time a fully integrated laser system successfully shot a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds, proving the feasibility of laser attack from Apache.
It remains unclear exactly how powerful the laser is that is flying on the Apache, but it sounds like it is surprisingly well integrated for an experimental bolt-on device. The system's size is also impressive. For a totally new exploratory program like this, the entire laser package is only about the size of one of the Apache's external fuel tanks, which points to the possibility that this system can go from testing to the front lines faster than one may expect.
For special operations command in particular, equipping their helicopters with weapons like this, and being able to do everything from silently cutting power lines and melting generators to starting diversion fires and disabling vehicles from on high is clearly an incredibly attractive capability set.

If anything, adding a podded laser to combat helicopters in general is among the most sensible application of solid-state tactical lasers today, and far less ambitious when compared to other ongoing aerospace laser development programs, ranging from C-130 mounted lasers, to fighter mounted lasers, to high-flying drone mounted lasers. Even though they are not sci-fi powerful at this time, they are really the lowest collateral damage airborne weapon imaginable today.
There is much more.

I really like the special ops potential of this weapon.  The ability to destroy enemy facilities and weapons without going "boom" would have a disorienting effect on an adversary that could be further enhanced by the special operators.  If they can find a way to reduce the noise of the Apache, it would be even more eerie for the enemy.


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