High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility

Logos: Shoulder sleeve insignia of Space and Missile Defense Command and the U.S. Army High Energy Laser Systems Test FacilityThe High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF) operates the nationĀ“s most powerful laser in support of DoD laser research, development, test, and evaluation. HELSTF remains the only site capable of supporting a broad spectrum of directed energy technologies for the DoD, other government agencies, industry, and academia. With its infrastructure and isolated location, HELSTF is the ideal choice to host new laser technologies, such as free electron or advanced solid sate lasers. The Test Facility represents a multi-million investment in High Energy Laser research and includes the following capabilities:

Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser

Originally built by TRW, Inc., for the U.S. Navy, the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) has proved that chemical laser technology can be scaled to multi-megawatt power levels. After 15 years of operation, the MIRACL remains the highest power chemical laser in the Western Hemisphere.

Sea Lite Beam Director

A high-precision pointer-tracker system built by Hughes Aircraft Company for the U.S. Navy, the Sea Lite Beam Director provides the capability to track highly maneuverable tactical targets and destroy them with the MIRACL. The infrared optics on the beam director also serve as a high-resolution infrared imaging system that can record data from missile tests conducted at WSMR.

Photo: U.S. Army High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility

Pulsed Laser Vulnerability Test System

Operational since June 1992, the Pulsed Laser Vulnerability Test System is a surrogate laser device capable of duplicating many tactical laser threat systems.

Laser Demonstration Device

A 10-to-20-kilowatt mid-infrared chemical laser that provides low-cost laser test capability for customers who do not need the full power of the MIRACL.

Effects Test Area

  • The Effects Test Area (ETA) provides an indoor, controlled laboratory test environment for evaluating laser effects on various materials and small (less than one meter) components.
  • The Hazardous Test Area is located 900 meters downrange from the MIRACL. The Hazardous Test Area is used for large targets or targets that explode or release large quantities of gas/liquid. Extensive instrumentation is also available at this site.
  • The Large Vacuum Chamber can produce a vacuum equivalent to a 600,000 foot altitude and is the only large vacuum chamber in the country capable of allowing the entry of full-power, high-energy laser beams
  • The Beam Transfer Area (BTA) permits a large number of simultaneous tests to be conducted during each MIRACL firing. The BTA can also switch the MIRACL beam between any of the numerous test areas at HELSTF, reducing the test costs to individual customers.
  • The Optical Maintenance Facility provides an on-site capability to characterize, clean, and install optics of virtually any type; from windows to the new uncooled optics.