The hardware-in-the-loop simulation system, which provides a precise, controllable and repeatable test conditions, is an important part of the development of the semi-active laser (SAL) guided weapons. In this paper, laser energy chain characteristics were studied, which provides a theoretical foundation for the SAL guidance technology and the hardware-in-the-loop simulation system. Firstly, a simplified equation was proposed to adjust the radar equation according to the principles of the hardware-in-the-loop simulation system. Secondly, a theoretical model and calculation method were given about the energy chain characteristics based on the hardware-in-the-loop simulation system. We then studied the reflection characteristics of target and the distance between the missile and target with major factors such as the weather factors. Finally, the accuracy of modeling was verified by experiment as the values measured experimentally generally follow the theoretical results from the model. And experimental results revealed that ratio of attenuation of the laser energy exhibited a non-linear change vs. pulse number, which were in accord with the actual condition.