WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army chemical laser destroyed a 2-foot long artillery shell in flight during a test in New Mexico Tuesday, marking the first time such a small target has been shot down, the service announced Tuesday.
The test could yield an important new capability for the Army, which has no means of defending soldiers from incoming enemy artillery. The defense against artillery is at present limited to destroying the weapons before or after they fire.
In a test at White Sands Missile Range on Tuesday afternoon, the Army's Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser tracked and fired a burst of photons at an artillery projectile. Seconds later the projectile was destroyed.
The MTHEL has previously destroyed 25 Katyusha rockets, which are 10 feet long and give off a heat signature and are therefore easier targets.
The laser is a joint development project between the United States and Israel and is being developed by TRW Inc. It began in 1996 to help Israel defend its northern territory against short-range rocket attacks.
The deuterium fluoride chemical laser is expected to cost only a few thousand dollars per kill or less and will have a "deep magazine" to counter multiple rockets or saturation attacks, TRW said.