In recent tests against two targets fired within seconds of each other, the joint U.S.-Israeli Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) succeeded in destroying both targets in September 22 and 25 tests after failing to do so on September 11. Additional tests against multiple targets are planned.
Program managers at the New Mexico test site conducted two separate tests each involving two Katyusha rockets on September 11. In both tests, THEL shot down the first rocket and only aimed at the second rocket. Preliminary information suggested the high-energy chemical laser lacked sufficient radar tracking information to fire at the second rockets. In the two subsequent tests, THEL Program Manager Gerald Wilson said that "the radar system worked and therefore the Tactical High Energy Laser Demonstrator was provided the opportunity to engage the second target."
An August 28 test marked the first time the laser, which has been under development since 1996, knocked out two rockets in flight at the same time. A U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command spokesperson described the time separating the two rocket launches in the August test as a "matter of seconds." In the September tests, the spokesperson said the rockets were fired "at nearly the same time." All of the September tests had the same interval between rocket launches.
Designed with the goal of protecting northern Israeli cities from short-range rocket attacks, the laser was to be handed over to Israel by this October, but continued testing will likely push the transfer off until at least next year. Though some Israeli military officials have reportedly expressed doubts about how effective the system will be, an Israeli official in a September 19 interview said THEL is considered a "very important project." The Israeli government has contributed $67.5 million to fund development of the estimated $250 million system, the performance of which can be affected by rain, snow, wind and, fog.