U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD) have
selected a Northrop Grumman Corporation design
concept for the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (MTHEL)
prototype, a laser weapon capable of shooting down short-range
rockets and artillery projectiles in flight.

“MTHEL represents a transformational weapon system — the
first mobile directed energy weapon that will be able to
destroy tactical airborne threats in midair,” said Pat Caruana,
Northrop Grumman Space Technology vice president for missile
defense. “The system meets critical air and missile defense
needs for both the U.S. Army and IMoD and represents the
culmination of over 30 years of Northrop Grumman investments
in high-energy lasers.”

The choice of a design concept is a key step preceding development
of the MTHEL prototype, which will take place during fiscal
years 2004 through 2007.

Caruana noted MTHEL’s ability to destroy airborne targets
has been proven by the THEL/Advanced Concept Technology
Demonstrator (ACTD), a Northrop Grumman-developed system
now at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In tests,
THEL/ACTD (now called the MTHEL Testbed) has shot down 28
Katyusha rockets, fired singly and in salvos, and five artillery

Selection of the Northrop Grumman MTHEL design concept resulted
from an alternate systems review held in June in Huntsville,
Ala. U.S. Army and IMoD officials selected the design from
among several alternatives presented. The Army’s Air, Space
and Missile Defense Program Executive Office administers
and executes the MTHEL program, using both Army and IMoD

“MTHEL will bring speed-of-light defense to the battlefield,
but it will act and feel like any other air defense system,
said Joe Shwartz, Northrop Grumman’s MTHEL program manager.
”It will be operated by soldiers and supported in the field,
mostly by the use of existing maintenance and logistical
infrastructure. This enables both a seamless integration
into current warfighting concept of operations, while at
the same time positioning the Army for the future.“

Laser weapons operate by projecting a highly focused, high-power
beam of light that delivers enough energy on a rocket or
artillery projectile to explode it in midair. The cost per
shot, primarily cost of the chemicals used to fuel the laser,
is expected to be in the thousands of dollars-far less expensive
than the cost of kinetic energy defense systems, in which
a sophisticated rocket or projectile collides with a target
to destroy it. Kinetic energy kill vehicles are not reusable.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology is the pre-eminent builder
of laser weapon systems. It is a leader in the development
of high-energy lasers, both chemical and solid state.

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Bob Bishop
Northrop Grumman Space Technology
(310) 812-5227