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Published on Apr 12, 2006
THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) For years, chemical-powered lasers were seen as the only viable alternative for weapons-strength ray guns. The most promising of those systems, the Tactical High Energy Laser, successfully shot down dozens of rockets and mortars. (this video shows it in action.) But generating the THEL's megawatts of laser power required hundreds of gallons of toxic chemicals — ethylene, nitrogen trifluoride. The weapons grew bulky (the small-scale version was only supposed to be kept in a mere right cargo containers, each 40 feet long). Worse, after a few shots, the lasers would have to be resupplied with a fresh batch of reactants. The logistics of hauling those toxins either through the air or across a battlefield made generals shiver. So, ultimately, interest swung back to solid state systems, like Yamamoto's, and, to a lesser extent, free electron lasers.