Air Defense: September 29, 2004


After four years of tinkering and testing, the MTHEL (Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser) is ready, but not scheduled, for production. The laser and radar system can track up to sixty targets at a time (mortar and artillery shells, rockets) and fire on and destroy these projectiles at a range of up to five kilometers. MTHEL can destroy about a dozen targets a minute, at a cost of some $3,000 per shot. In its current state, each MTHEL system would require three large tractor trailer trucks to carry the radar, fuel supplies and laser. Its taken eight years, and over a half a billion dollars, for American and Israeli engineers to get that far. This version could be ready for combat use in about six years, at a cost of another billion dollars. In another few years, engineers believe they could create a MTHEL that could fit in a hummer. 

Aside from the systems size and cost, theres also the problem of lasers being weakened by clouds, fog, mist or even artificial smoke. For that reason, theres not a lot of enthusiasm for proceeding right now on such a bulky and expensive system. But by the end of the decade, the smaller, and cheaper, version will be more attractive.




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