High-Energy Lasers to Pierce Fog, Dust, Provide ISR Data and Destroy Threats

This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated April 12 during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Okla. The MEHEL can shoot a drone out of the sky using a 5kW laser. (C. Todd Lopez)

This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated April 12 during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Okla. The MEHEL can shoot a drone out of the sky using a 5kW laser. (C. Todd Lopez)

November 20, 2017 | Source: Army, army.mil, 23 October 2017, David Vergun

A lot of people think that high-energy lasers, or HELs, can't penetrate fog, rain and dust, said Thomas Webber. That's just plain wrong.

Webber, director of the Directed Energy Division's Technical Center, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, spoke at the Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 9.

The key to making HELs work in poor atmospheric conditions is something called "adaptive optics," he said, adding that the Army is continuing to make more and more improvements on its adaptive optics system to give a greater range of compensation for degraded conditions.

Besides the optics, an effective beam control system is used, which forms one beam from multiple lasers to pinpoint exactly where the peak energy should be focused, he said, adding that it operates in conjunction with the optics system.

In fact, the optics on the HEL are so advanced that a battlefield commander can use them for multiple applications with regards to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "It's the best ISR capability they'll ever have access to," Webber said.