MTHEL represents a transformational weapon system - the first mobile directed energy weapon that will be able to destroy tactical airborne threats in midair. In order to achieve a high rate of fire, designers are looking into the use of high energy capsules, which can be loaded prior to each shot. The cost per shot, primarily cost of the chemicals used to fuel the laser, is expected to be in the thousands of dollars - far less expensive than the cost of kinetic energy defense systems.
MTHEL is a development of the mobile version of the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) testbed weapon, developed by Northrop Grumman under a US Army contract. The program was expected to provide a completed prototype by 2007. By January 2006 the THEL/Nautilus program was shelved due to lack of budget. However, In July 2006, Northrop Grumman unveiled the Skygoard laser based C-RAM/air defense system, designed to protect civilian and deployed military forces.
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