This week, Boeing said that it’s now engaged in the next phase of its contract with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, in which it will install a 10-kilowatt solid-state laser in the system, which has been slightly renamed as HEL MD, for High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. Field tests will take place in the coming year to let the high-power SSL system show off its dexterity at acquiring, tracking, and defeating “threat-representative” targets.
What threats will those targets represent? Rockets, artillery shells, missiles, and unmanned aircraft, primarily. Boeing has been down this path before — in May 2009, for instance, it shot down a handful of small UAVs in tests using lasers in its Matrix and Laser Avenger systems. Other defense contractors including Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have also demonstrated similar capabilities on a limited scale in recent years.