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Tactical laser destroys rocket in shootdown test

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Army News Service, June 9, 2000 -- The Tactical High Energy Laser, known as the THEL demonstrator, successfully tracked and destroyed a single rocket for the first time and during the first attempt June 6 at about 3:45 p.m. EDT.

The test was the first of a series of shoot-downs before the THEL is handed over to the government of Israel.

The THEL is a joint Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program between the United States and Israel designed to negate the threat posed by Katyusha rockets to populated areas in northern Israel.

"We've just turned science fiction into reality," said Lt. Gen. John Costello, commanding general, U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command. "This compelling demonstration of THEL's defensive capabilities proves that directed energy weapon systems have the potential to play a significant role in defending U.S. national security interests worldwide. It also gives the government of Israel an avenue for protecting its citizens actively and effectively against cross-border rocket attacks."

In July 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Israeli Ministry of Defense signed a memorandum of agreement that spelled out the development and functional testing of a THEL demonstrator. The THEL consists of subsystems that include a laser, a pointer-tracker, a command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) center, and a fire control radar. TRW, Inc., is the prime contractor.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is the Department of Defense's executive agent for the joint THEL/ACTD program.