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U.S.-Israeli laser system destroys rocket in test

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, May 7, 2004

An Israeli-U.S. mobile laser system has destroyed its first large-caliber rocket.

U.S. officials said the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser destroyed its first rocket in a May 4 test at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. They termed the projectile destroyed as a large-caliber rocket and larger than the Soviet-origin Katyusha.

Last week, the M-THEL conducted its first flight test. The high-energy system tracked a rocket in flight, but did not try to destroy it, Middle East Newsline reported.

This was the first time the M-THEL, a project led by Northrop Grumman, destroyed a rocket in field tests. The stationary THEL destroyed 122 mm Katyusha rockets in tests in 2000 and 2001.

"The destruction of a new threat type once again demonstrates the capability of the M-THEL testbed," Northrop Grumman's space technology sector president Wes Bush said. "We are excited about the historic accomplishments and we are fully prepared to move to the next stage of building the M-THEL prototype."

Neither officials nor Northrop Grumman identified the target projectile. But Northrop Grumman said the target was a large-caliber rocket capable of twice the range and more than three times the altitude than the Katyusha.

The M-THEL target also carried a much larger warhead than previous targets.

"Many countries already possess large-caliber rockets," Northrop Grumman said in a statement. "The destroyed rocket is representative of threats faced by U.S. and Israeli forces."



A video of the test showed the firing of the rocket, followed by the M-THEL's pointer tracker system, in ready mode, tracking the target. The M-THEL then directed a laser beam that struck the rocket, which seconds later exploded.

Northrop Grumman built the M-THEL demonstrator for the U.S. Army and the Israeli Defense Ministry. Officials said the M-THEL would become the first tactical and mobile, directed-energy weapon capable of shooting down rockets and other tactical targets.

The U.S. Army has drafted a $118 million budget for M-THEL development from fiscal 2003 to 2007. Officials said Israel would supplement the development program. The M-THEL testbed was meant to destroy artillery shells, mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles, short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and air-to-surface munitions.

Development and production of the M-THEL testbed also included Elbit Systems, Israel Aircraft Industries and Rafael, Israel Armament Development Authority and Tadiran Electronic Systems.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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