Lockheed Martin has announced the delivery of the HELIOS laser weapon system to the U.S. Navy for ship integration and testing.
Once integrated, the HELIOS (High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance) will be the only deployed laser system integrated into an operational Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG) of the Navy – likely USS Preble (DDG-88).
This is also the first acquisition program to deploy a laser weapon system with high-energy fiber lasers for permanent fielding by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
The delivery follows the Lockheed Martin and Navy’s recent demonstration of full laser power in excess of the 60 kW requirement. The scalable laser design architecture spectrally combines multiple kilowatt fiber lasers to attain high beam quality at various power levels.
Lockheed Martin completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) and Navy Factory Qualification Test milestones in 2020, demonstrating the value of system engineering rigor and proven Aegis system integration and test processes on the way to delivering operationally effective and suitable laser weapon system that meets the Navy’s mission requirements.
In 2018, Lockheed Martin received a $150 million contract, with options worth up to $942.8 million, from the U.S. Navy for the development, manufacture and delivery of two high power laser weapon systems.
Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS system is a 60-kilowatt laser system with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and counter-Unmanned Aerial System (counter-UAS) capabilities. The company claims that the system has a “growth potential” to 150 kilowatts.
According to Lockheed Martin, HELIOS combines three key capabilities, brought together for the first time in one weapon system:
• A high-energy laser system: The high-energy fiber laser will be designed to counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats. The energy and thermal management system will leverage Lockheed Martin experience on Department of Defense programs, and the cooling system will be designed for maximum adaptability onboard ships. In addition, Lockheed Martin will bring decades of shipboard integration experience, reducing risk and increasing reliability.
• A long-range ISR capability: HELIOS sensors will be part of an integrated weapon system, designed to provide decision-makers with maximum access to information. HELIOS data will be available on the Lockheed Martin-led Aegis Combat System.
• A counter-UAS dazzler capability: The HELIOS dazzler will be designed to obscure adversarial UAS-based ISR capabilities.
The U.S. Navy is developing multiple laser weapon systems under the larger Navy Laser Family of Systems (NLFoS) effort. In addition to the HELIOS program, the NLFoS effort also includes Solid-State Laser – Technology Maturation (SSL-TM), Ruggedized High Energy Laser (RHEL), and the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) programs.
The SSL-TM is designed for amphibious assault ships, while ODIN, like HELIOS, is designed for guided-missile destroyers. The are currently no plans to install the RHEL system on naval vessels.
The SSL-TM Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (SSL-TM LWSD) was installed onboard San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD-27) while the first ODIN Counter-UAS laser weapon system was installed on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105).