KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) —
Throughout 2020, the 704th Test Group’s Operating Location-AA, part of the Directed Energy Combined Test Force, or DE CTF, focused much of its effort on the testing of weapons designed to prevent adversarial drone observation and assault.
The latest system tested, the High Energy Laser Weapon System 2, also known as HELWS2 or H2, is a counter-Unmanned Aerial System (c-UAS) directed energy weapon (DEW).
H2 was tested as part of a directed energy experiment that began in the spring of 2020 and was managed by the Strategic Development Planning & Experimentation, or SDPE, office. This experiment has involved taking commercial off-the-shelf systems and deploying them to several combatant commands, or COCOMs, for training, testing, and evaluation for a one-year period.
“This experiment has many notable U.S. Air Force firsts, including the complete training of and operation of the system by Security Forces Airmen, the first directed energy c-UAS capability, and the first integration with a base,” said Lt. Col. Jared Rupp, DE CTF Director. “Additionally, these locations were selected as to significantly enhance c-UAS capability through the use of these DEWs, helping to prevent enemy airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and attacks.”
Raytheon Intelligence & Space developed the H2 with lessons learned from the deployment of its first HELWS, referred to as H1 and deployed in early 2020. The H2 system features a number of improvements, including ruggedized enhancements to ensure transportability and survivability in a wide range of operational environments, a new beam director for more accurate targeting, and a robust power system for additional magazine depth.
The DE CTF is a combination of Air Force Research Laboratory DE Directorate (AFRL/RD), 704th Test Group Operation Location-AA and Air Force Operational Test & Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) personnel co-located at Kirtland Air Force Base. The 704th Test Group is an operating unit of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, headquartered at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.