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Image credit: Raytheon

The Army is flight testing helicopter-mounted laser weapons

Tomorrow's squad support copters could fire beams of radiation from afar.
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Raytheon

The US military's experiments shooting lasers from vehicles continue with another important milestone: Laser-equipped attack helicopter fired at targets for the first time. The US Army keeps getting better at nailing UAV targets with ground-based truck lasers, but it's harder to fire accurately from helicopters. Not only does their position fluctuate with airborne conditions, but their whole frame vibrates as their rotors spin fast enough to keep the whole vehicle aloft. Hitting a target almost a mile away from the air, as the Army just accomplished in a New Mexico tests series, is a big deal.

Arms contractor Raytheon coupled a targeting array with a High Energy Laser (HEL) system and strapped them to AH-64 Apaches, the US Army's main attack helicopter. During tests at New Mexico's White Sands base, the vehicles hit targets from a variety of conditions, altitudes and air speeds. These experiments will help researchers factor in vibration, dust and rotor downwash into their laser-aiming tech so that one day our military can field the beam-shooting gunships we've been dreaming of since GI JOE.

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