Support: April 5, 2004

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The U.S. Army has built and tested a humvee equipped with a laser gun turret that can quickly destroy unexploded munitions and roadside bombs. The system, called Zeus-HLONS (HMMWV Laser Ordnance Neutralization System), uses an industrial solid state laser, normally used to cut metal, but that can also ignite explosives up to 300 meters away. Normally, engineers have to approach such munitions (shells, cluster bombs aircraft bombs) or roadside bombs, place explosives next to it, then move away, trailing a detonator wire behind them, and then set off the explosive to destroy the bomb or unexploded munitions. Using the Zeus laser is a lot cheaper (a few cents per laser shot) and safer than the traditional method. Zeus is particularly useful when you have an area with a lot of unexploded munitions just lying about. The munitions are often unstable, meaning that just picking them up could set them off. The Zeus system can be fired up to 2,000 times a day. Last year, a Zeus-HLONS was sent to Afghanistan for six months last year, where it destroyed 200 items, including 51 in one 100 minute period. 

However, Zeus is currently stuck in development because no one in the army wants to "own" it and pay for manufacturing it. While destroying unexploded munitions is an engineering task, Zeus-HLONS was developed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Development is continuing, including the use of a more powerful laser. One thing the engineers would like to see is some way for Zeus to destroy buried munitions and land mines. But the laser cannot penetrate earth very effectively. As things stand now, Zeus-HLONS will remain on the sidelines until someone decides it's important enough to spend money on and adopt as another item of equipment.

 


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