Laser Weapons Testing at White Sands
White Sands is home to the missile range, a 3,200 square mile range that is the largest overland test range in the United States. It is also home to the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF). Here is their own description, from the website of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command:
“Serving the warfighter and the nation’s directed energy test &
evaluation community as the test facility of choice for high energy laser technologies and weapon systems.
The High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), operated by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT), is a Department of Defense Major Range Test Facility Base (MRTFB) activity. HELSTF’s experienced workforce, test areas, access to extended land and air range space at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), and infrastructure provide a one-of-a-kind capability for a wide variety of laser propagation, lethality, survivability, vulnerability, and dynamic engagement testing & evaluation.”
On Friday September 28, 2001 at White Sands the Army tested a 10 kilowatt laser, then the most powerful in the world. It burned a nickel-sized hole through a 1 inch sheet of aluminum. It is electric generated and developed by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. It was moved to the White Sands testing range the month before that for development and testing.
It is directed by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command based in Huntsville, AL. They were given a $40 million budget for this project in 2001, and they are aiming to develop a 100 kilowatt laser. They hoped to create one they could mount on Humvees. This at the time was the only funded laser project the Army had. Brig. Gen. Stephen Ferrell was a special assistant to the White Sands program.
Another project tested at White Sands is the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL). It is being developed by both the US and Israeli militaries.
The lasers are used for missile defense, which previously there was treaties that prohibited them. The US ignored them until it finally scrapped them.
The motives for the development of these lasers can be seen in the Vision 2020 document of the US Space Command. Vision 2020 has the goal for the United States to militarily dominate outer space by 2020. The fact that there are military command for outer space point to that. The billions of dollars going to New Mexico facilities aid in that goal.
Romo, Rene. “Laser Gun World’s Most Powerful.” Albuquerque Journal. September 29, 2001.