Skip to comments.Defanging Hezbollah: A Directed Energy Defense Could Help
Posted on 07/22/2006 3:07:27 AM PDT by Paul Ross
Defanging Hezbollah: A Directed Energy Defense Could Help
by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and David D. Gentilli
July 20, 2006 |
Hezbollahs Katyusha rocket attacks have killed and wounded dozens of Israelis, destroyed property, and sent thousands to bomb shelters. They threaten to plunge the entire region into conflict. There is a way to shoot these missiles out of the sky, limiting the danger to innocents and mitigating the serious threat of one of the regions most dangerous terrorist groups. The U.S. Army and Israeli Defense Ministry have a joint program that has developed a high-energy laser that can do the job, but they have been slow to deploy the system. The United States should ready the system for operational use as quickly as possible and make it available to the Israeli Defense Forces.
A Known Threat and a Known Countermeasure
Katyusha multiple rocket launchers were first fielded by the Soviets during World War II. They fire a primitive, short-range unguided rocket that is not very accurate. They have only limited military utility but are perfect for terror. Hezbollah has a vast stockpile of Katyushas.
This threat is not new, and the United States and Israel have been working on countermeasures for over a decade. In 1996, the U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense began joint development of a system, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), to defend against the types of rockets Hezbollah is using against Israel today. The Army terminated development of the system in 2006 because of technical complexities and lack of mobility. It wasnt really ready for the battlefield. There is a relocatable version of THEL in development, but funding for the program has been limited. It will not be ready for at least another 18 months. So ten years after development began, there is still no defensive system in the field to protect America and its allies from terrorist rocket attacks.
The real tragedy is that the THEL works. At the White Sands Missile Range, THEL intercepted Katyusha rockets 46 times, as well as artillery and mortar projectiles, in single, multiple, and surprise engagements. The basic technology is proven and has been in development for 20 years.
This is a clear case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. If the U.S. Army continues development of THEL and deploys it, even with imperfections, Israel would have a defensive capability in place in the near future, when it is desperately needed.
The Promise of Directed Energy
Directed energy weapons demonstrate tremendous potential against all kinds of mortar, artillery, rocket, aircraft, and missile threats. Directed energy can be used against short-range threats like the Katyusha rockets being fired at Israel and against ballistic missiles in their boost phase. Putting a system in the field now will not only help Israel, but also provide invaluable operational experience on how to use these systems.
Congress should provide emergency supplemental funding to rush THEL into production. The Administration should direct the Army to accelerate the program as rapidly as possible.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security, and David D. Gentilli is a Research Assistant, in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
The Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser has scored 3Array kills, including 26 Katyusha rockets.
Either fight to deploy...or get out of the way!!!
Is that laser beam actually as wide as that mirror ?
Meet the future of CIWS. This is why I believe little additional money has been put into Phalanx. Mach 3 ASCMs require a more immediate response.
Just for perspective, the whole concept of directed energy, indeed all historical and contemporary weaponry, is to take energy from a source, launch and deliver it accurately, then obliterate the crap outta the target in a paroxysm of 1/2 mv^2 (or heat) violence. Controlled energy launch here...to uncontrolled energy arrival there.
There is another kind of weapon that is spiritual and is unknown by national armies. This is another kind of violence and delivers another kind of energy.
I agree with the post. The Middle East might be a good place to test and improve such a weapon.
I wonder how good it is at swatting houseflies. I could use a new swatter.
Interesting. Thanks for posting.
While directed energy weapons might solve many issues it can never be the technological cure all its supporters claim it to be.
Always remember the final battlefield and the only one that counts is in the human mind. Winning hearts and minds, to quote a saying from Vietnam, is the real key to understanding World War IV.
For those who are trying to stand on the sidelines (they just want rice in their rice bowls) you try to win their hearts. Get them to understand it is in their best interest to support.
For those who are carrying a gun and are killing your troops (they are true believers of the cause) you try to win their minds. Get them to understand that their individual survival means giving up the true belief. You do this by killing them every chance you get. The survivors, their leadership, will get the message and either stop trying to kill you (a truce), convert (peace) or get exterminated (peace).
Unfortunately this has been the history of armed conflict. And man has not evolved sufficiently to change this harsh reality.
The fixed installation design could easily be stationed in three locations in Israel, North, South and Middle to provide total coverage. Being such a ridiculously small country, a mobile system is a complete waste of money. Fixed is the way to go for them.
...or even to populated sites.
Scrubbers solve that. And better "toxic chemicals" (can you say gasoline truck?) rolling around their streets in tankers than Katyusha's raining down on their houses and industry...
The Deuterium Flouride and combustion by-products are not serious issues. Residue removal maintenance issues in an operationally deployed system are easily manageable.
The real issue was keeping the mirrors cool. And the fixed installation allowed for an effective approach to implement a solution. One that is not easily translatable to a mobile platform.
Deploy it now. Its better than nothing.
MTHEL testbed beam director during laser firing. In this infrared photo, the MTHEL testbed high-energy laser beam can be seen as it is projected by the beam director at a Katyusha rocket in flight.
How about swamping the defense? Can this handle a large volume of fire or will it overheat?
As far as swamping the defense, that is basically a non-winner. Unlike ballistic interceptors. The rate of fire, azimuth, slewing across the horizon are all pretty impressive.
It can even nail inbound artillery shells...
"As the nation's only laser weapon, the THEL testbed has shot down a variety of threats since 2000, showing its versatility by destroying about three dozen targets, ranging from Katyusha rockets to artillery shells and large-caliber rockets, and now mortar threats as well."
Here is a depiction of the fixed installation:
Just wondering if you could elaborate.
MOVE 'ZOT'. FOR GREAT JUSTICE.
That is the province of the Higher Powers...
That's okay. "Dwell time" is the nomenclature of choice in the biz. All are just verbal abbreviations to express this idea: Keep the beam on target sufficiently long for destruction. This dwell-time can vary based on target "hardness" or distance issues. Hence, the system has to be able to ascertain when the target either disintegrates or is sufficiently damaged as to permit transition to other targets. Thus in theory, as you surmise, rate-of-kill is limited by the length of that required dwell time. Most effective exposures have been extremely short in duration to have the destructive success, however.
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