General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, announced on May 21, 2015 that the High-Energy Liquid Laser (HELLADS) completed the U.S. Government Acceptance Test Procedure and is now being shipped to the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico. At WSMR, the laser will undergo an extensive series of live fire tests against a number of military targets.
The HELLADS Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS) is designed to demonstrate the efficacy of a tactical laser weapon in Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (CRAM), Counter-Air and Counter-Missile applications, as well as a number of special applications. The 150 kW Class HELLADS laser has been developed over a number of years to create a completely new approach to electrically powered lasers with sufficiently low size, weight, and power consumption to enable deployment on a number of tactical platforms.
«HELLADS represents a new generation of tactical weapon systems with the potential to revolutionize sovereign defenses and provide a significant tactical advantage to our war-fighters», said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. «It is remarkable to see high-power laser technology mature into an extremely compact weapons system and be deployed for field tests. It will be even more remarkable to witness the impact that this will have on U.S. Defense capability».
The HELLADS laser was developed through a series of stage/gate phases beginning with a physics demonstration and progressing through a series of laser demonstrators at increasing power levels. At each stage, DARPA required beam quality, laser power, efficiency, size, and weight objectives to be demonstrated. The program also developed the world’s highest brightness laser diodes, compact battery storage, and thermal storage systems, and improved the manufacturing process and size of specialized laser materials and optics.
The HELLADS DLWS holds the world’s record for the highest laser output power of any electrically powered laser. Doctor Michael Perry, vice president of Laser and Electro-Optic Systems for GA-ASI, credits DARPA with a unique capability to foster, nurture, and support such a development. «The HELLADS team of program managers, technical support, and DARPA senior management has worked to address the challenges of developing a completely new technology. Additionally, if it were not for the hard work of our scientists and engineers, we could not have succeeded. This is the most challenging program that I have been associated with», said David Friend, HELLADS Program Manager, GA-ASI. «This program has advanced the state-of-the-art in so many areas».
The pioneering HELLADS DLWS represents the first generation of the technology. Through other U.S. Government programs separate from the DARPA-supported work, GA-ASI has demonstrated, second and third Generation versions of the technology, which significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the size, weight, and power consumption for the system while increasing the beam quality.
The third Generation system is currently being incorporated into a Tactical Laser Weapon Module designed for integration into both manned and unmanned aircraft systems. «Even as we begin development of the fourth Generation system, I am looking forward to seeing HELLADS perform in the live fire tests», said Doctor Perry. «The laser technology is a means to an end. What matters is the new and cost-effective capability that we can bring to our country».