Soft Kill Machine

Mating the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System on General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ Predator C Avenger remotely piloted aircraft would create a game-changing weapon system capable of taking out non-hardened ground targets like antennas, said Frank Pace, president of the company’s Aircraft Systems Group. “If we had money, we could maybe have that working by 2018,” said Pace during an interview in Le Bourget, France, at the 50th Paris Air Show. The laser would be fitted in Avenger’s internal payload bay, he said. The company’s concept does not envision HELLADS protecting Avenger from anti-aircraft missiles; therefore, managing the heat generated from firing the laser weapon would be manageable, said Pace during the June 18 interview. Aircraft self-protection would require more frequent and comparatively longer laser bursts, creating a tougher thermal management challenge, he acknowledged. Instead, the company envisions HELLADS negating a soft target with a comparatively shorter burst and then having time to cool down before firing again, he said. “What we are looking at is a fairly infinite magazine that will allow you a firing capability about once a minute and then we can handle the thermal dynamics of the situation,” he said. Work on HELLADS, a General Atomics design, has occurred under DARPA sponsorship. The Air Force has also talked about demonstrating a HELLADS derivative on the B-1 bomber. (For more from Pace’s interview, read Ready to Go and New Eyes for Avenger.)