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    Home> Defenses >Nautilus/THEL  

  Related News Items
  fas.org > TRW Reports First Shootdown With THEL Laser07/06/2000
  missilethreat.com > A Good Description of the THEL/MTHEL21/08/2007
  defense-update.com > MTHEL - Skyguard Laser-Based System14/07/2006
  Single Source > Skyguard - THEL Taken to the Next Level06/11/2006
  defense-update.com > Good Background on the Skyguard (MTHEL)01/01/2006


VIDEO LINK: "Nautilus/THEL -  A Brief History and Summary of Successes"

 Also known as the Nautilus, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) began in 1996 as a joint project between the U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Nautilus/THEL focuses a high-energy laser beam on flying threats such as rockets, missiles, mortars and artillery shells, destroying them in flight.

On June 6, 2000, Nautilus/THEL became the first missile defense system to successfully shoot down a short range Katyusha rocket.  In subsequent tests over the years, the THEL prototype shot down 28 Katyushas, several longer range rockets, mortars and artillery shells, with a high kill probability and limited availability.

The THEL program was followed by MTHEL, a mobile THEL design adaptation to put the weapon on semi-trailers, making it capable of convenient relocation from place to place according to need. 

As high technology systems, high energy laser weapons like Nautilus/MTHEL are typically more expensive in initial procurement than anti-missile missile interceptor systems.  However, their cost-per-kill is typically much lower (approximately $1000/shot), and their kill probabilities are higher, as indicated by THEL's record of 100% successful intercepts. 

While planned for several years as the solution to Israel's problems with Katyusha fire and Kassam attacks, funding for the program was reduced following Israel's pullout from Lebanon and, for a variety of complex reasons, Israeli and American funding for the program was cancelled in January 2006.  In 2007 Northrup Grumman, the U.S. main contractor, offered to build and deploy in Israel a number of Skyguard systems, a special implementation of the MTHEL tailored for Israel's needs, including a single Skyguard installation considered adequate to defend Sderot.

Sources: defense-update.com; also fas.org; also irconnect.com




  Technical Details Summary  
Approx. cost/shot $1,000
Name Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) aka MTHEL, Skyguard, Nautilus
Type high energy chemical laser
Built by Northrop Grumman and Israel
Speed speed of light
Guidance system specialized tracking radar
Succesfully tested? yes
Platform flatbed semi-trailers
Efficient against very short / short range ballistic rockets
Approx. delivery date 18 months from order




THEL laser beam in infrared


Schematic of THEL in action (courtesy Northrop Grumman)


THEL laser beam projector










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