The Tactical High Energy Laser
The Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) program is a key component of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation designed to counter short-range rockets. Israel faces a constant threat from Hezbollah-guerillas staging attacks on its northern border. The THEL, still in developmental stages, will serve to protect Israeli troops and civilians in advent of these affronts.
The THEL precursor, the Nautilus, destroyed a short-range rocket in flight during testing in February 1996 at a site in New Mexico, nine months after the project was launched. This was the first time a laser has ever destroyed a ballistic missile.
In April 1996 the U.S. agreed to accelerate high energy laser development after Hezbollah guerrillas fired over two dozen of Katyusha rockets at Israel during its 17-day period operation against the terrorists. Soon after, both President Clinton and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry have pledged to expand work on the THEL.
THEL will be a transportable laser weapon system which will be used by both the Israeli Defense Forces and eventually will have applications for the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command and the Israel Ministry of Defense are managing the program and the test program is conducted at the High Energy Laser Test Facility (HELSTF) in New Mexico.
Source: American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Photo courtesy of TRW Inc.