U.S. Army Awards Laser Weapon System Contract

The U.S. Army issued a contract award to accelerate the rapid prototyping and fielding of its first combat-capable laser weapon system.

This prototype will deliver 50 kilowatt (kW)-class lasers on a platoon of four Stryker vehicles in Fiscal Year 2022, supporting the Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) mission. The directed energy M-SHORAD capability is intended to protect maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery and mortar (RAM).

The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has selected two vendors to build the directed energy M-SHORAD mission prototypes in order to foster competition and stimulate the industrial base for directed energy capabilities. Those vendors, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, are subcontractors in an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement between the Army and Kord Technologies.

Under the OTA award action, issued on July 26 in the amount of $203 million, Kord has teamed with Northrop Grumman and Raytheon to develop the competing prototypes with support from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which makes the Stryker, for integration work. Under the terms of the contract, the two laser vendors have approximately one year to produce the required laser subsystems, integrate them onto the Stryker platform, and complete a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration against various threats.

After evaluation, the Army plans to purchase three additional laser-equipped Strykers, for a total of four prototype vehicles that would be fielded to an operational M-SHORAD platoon in Fiscal Year 2022. The OTA award has the potential to increase to $490 million for the delivery of the four prototypes.

The directed energy M-SHORAD prototypes are part of the progression of an Army technology maturation initiative known as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL).

The Army has also welcomed participation from additional vendors who were not selected for the OTA awards, but desire to compete for the same M-SHORAD requirement and timeline using their own internal research and development funding.

In a related effort, the Army is also adapting its High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) system into a prototype program order to increase its combat effectiveness and speed up its delivery to Soldiers.

The Army will adjust the current HEL-TVD, a 100 kW-class laser system integrated on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) platform developed by Dynetics and subcontractor Lockheed Martin. Under the new directed energy strategy, the Army is leveraging progress made in that effort in order to merge the HEL-TVD with similar technologies in development by the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Lockheed Martin High Energy Laser
The high energy laser counters unmanned aerial systems, rockets, artillery, and mortars. Artist’s rendering: Lockheed Martin (PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

This partnership will allow the services to achieve a higher power system, of approximately 250-300 kW-class, that can protect sites from RAM and UAS as well as more stressing threats — significantly increasing the warfighting capability being transitioned on the original timeline. The Army’s goal is to deliver four such prototype lasers integrated on tactical vehicles, for a capability known as High Energy Laser-Indirect Fire Protection Capability (HEL-IFPC), to a platoon by Fiscal Year 2024.

From U.S. Army press release by Claire Heininger



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