Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, MA recently received an initial $3.17 million increment of a $21.3 million “other transaction”. They’ll provide protoypes for phase 2 of the High Energy Liquid Laser (HELL) Area Defense System. Work will be performed in Wilmington, MA (66%), Cambridge, MA (13%), Vienna, VA (9%), Bridgeton, MA (9%), Albuquerque, NM, (1%), and Charlestown, MA (less than 1%), and is expected to be complete in August 2009. This is a sole source award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., (HR0011-08-9-0006).
Lasers have a number of obvious benefits if used as an air defense system, especially against targets like the terrorist rocket attacks that featured so prominently in Israel’s 2006 war, and which continue from the Palestinian territories to this day. The technical obtsacles remain daunting, however, and include rate of fire, sufficient power to burn through a target almost immediately, number of shots per power source, battlefield fragility, and in some cases the toxicity of the chemicals involved. A system called THEL/M-THEL has been tested, and is even marketed by Northrop Grumman as Skyguard, but lasers have yet to be bought in numbers or deployed under battle conditions. Research continues.