The U.S. Army just successfully blasted a target from 7/8th of a mile away using a laser cannon mounted to an Apache attack helicopter, pointing the way to more precise engagement of ground targets than today’s Hellfire missiles.
“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,” said Raytheon, the defense contractor providing the laser cannon.
It was important to learn what effect the helo’s vibration and rotor downwash had on the effectiveness of the laser’s beam.
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.
Helicopters are just the latest platform for the U.S. military to test laser power. We’ve seen them before on ships and fixed-wing aircraft. An advantage of a helicopter-mounted weapon is that that choppers engage targets from a closer distance, reducing the power needed for the laser to be effective.
Lasers make attractive weapons because they never run out of ammunition and they are extremely accurate. Information collected during this test will guide the design of eventual weapons that will be deployed on Apaches.