By Marie BerbereaNovember 15, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Twice the power without slowing down. That's what Space and Missile Defense Command is offering with the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser 3.0. The developers showcased the new capability at the Maneuver and Fires Integration Experiment (MFIX) Oct. 30 at Fort Sill, Okla.
The previous iteration of MEHEL boasted 5 kilowatts, but after user feedback the industry leaders once again proved they could do better.
"We started out at MFIX 2016 as a contractor-operated system at the 2 kw level and we've made progressions throughout the years. We are now a Soldier-operated system at the 10 kw level," said Dee Formdy, SMDC.
Currently the high energy laser is being tested on a Stryker-armored fighting vehicle chassis which is a strategic decision on the developers' part.
"The Stryker vehicle is the smallest combat platform. If you can integrate this capability onto the Stryker combat platform, you can integrate it on any of the other combat platforms," said Formdy.
MEHEL 3.0 is being used for research and development for the Army's end goal of attaining answers to enemy air and ground threat dilemmas. Field artillery and air defense artillery Soldiers were put to the task of quickly learning the system and using it to defend the skies.
"The [request for information] that went out was for systems that can be used for [maneuver-short range air defense]. That's one of the abilities that this system has," said Chesley Montague, FCoE Fires Battle Lab chief of model and simulations.
The high energy laser is invisible so it does not offer viewers a spectacular show of destruction like traditional systems. The proof of its capability is displayed in other ways. Once an aerial system is taken out using the laser and radar, a red sticker is put on the side of the Stryker vehicle.
The first successful target struck down by a Soldier using MEHEL took place in April of 2017. Now row upon row of red stickers adorn the side of the weapon.
Another function of MEHELs use at MFIX is to help the Fires Battle Lab create tactics, techniques and procedures for multi-domain battle.
"There's a lot of work that goes into coordination and synchronization when you look at trying to integrate the whole view of the battlefield. Providing those prototype tools and new techniques to the Soldier is a big part of MFIX," said Montague.
MEHEL 3.0 is not slated to be a program of record at this time, but will continue to help develop concept of operations for directed energy use.
"We take all the information and data collected and produce evaluations and reports. Soldiers are able to provide direct feedback to industry. These reports inform senior leaders where we're at and what we're doing. This experiment provides opportunities for evaluating prototypes that could influence current and future operations and enables faster fielding of these systems through government and industry collaboration," said Montague.