Boeing has announced that it has successfully mounted a 10kw solid-state laser on an eight-wheeled, 500-horsepower truck that could be used alongside conventional Army forces.The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) is now ready for field testing and over the next year will have a chance to show off its ability to acquire, track and destroy targets.
The U.S. military has been experimenting with laser weapons since the Seventies but it is only in the past few years that a high-energy laser has properly functioned as a weapon. Early systems used large, chemical-based lasers which tended to produce dangerous waste gases. More recently, scientists have developed solid state lasers that combine large numbers of compact beam generators, similar to LEDs.
The 10kw capacity of Boeing's latest effort is fairly modest compared with the power levels the Pentagon hopes to eventually achieve. The threshold for weapons-grade lasers is generally considered to be 100kw. Boeing said their system could 'subsequently' incorporate a more powerful laser.