A U.S. Army-industry team is integrating two Stryker vehicles with 50 kW-class laser weapon capabilities and support equipment in Huntsville, Ala.
According to the Army, these two Strykers, fitted with laser weapon systems developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, will head to a combat shoot-off event at Fort Sill, Okla. by spring, where they’ll face a series of scenarios designed to test the system and establish threshold requirements for this class of laser.
The result of the combat shoot-off event will lead to the competitive selection of one of the two laser systems for further prototype production, while also demonstrating for the first time that this laser technology is at a mature technical readiness level. The Army expects the operational fielding to take place by Fiscal Year 2022 with the service taking delivery of a platoon of four Strykers.
The combat shoot-off event is part of the Army’s Directed Energy-Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (DE-MSHORAD) prototyping effort which falls under Army’s larger modernization strategy for air and missile defense. The effort is intended to help protect Divisions and Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), Rotary-wing aircraft and rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM) threats by employing the use of high energy lasers, installed on tactical vehicles.
“This is moving extremely fast,” said COL G. Scott McLeod, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) program manager for DE-MSHORAD. “Everybody has done a great job of managing all of the technical complexity and challenges of getting these new components built and integrated so we can move to the shoot-off next year.”
RCCTO earlier selected two vendors in a cost share approach to build two laser systems, fostering competition and stimulating the industrial base for directed energy capabilities. The integration efforts by the two sub-contractors, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, is being overseen by the prime contractor, Kord Technologies. To keep efforts fair, the integration work on each laser system is being performed in separate areas at the Kord integration facility in Huntsville.
In October 2020, the competing contractors simultaneously evaluated control and functionality against airborne targets. Two additional evaluations, serving as risk reduction events, will take place leading up to the combat shoot-off. At the shoot-off, the two laser systems will go up against a series of 12 vignettes that will increase in difficulty. For example, there will be a mix of scenarios that could include UAS targets, RAM targets, or both. It is not expected that both systems will be able to meet all the demands of all of the scenarios, but the realistic challenges to the prototypes will serve to establish threshold requirements for future DE-MSHORAD systems.
The initial DE-MSHORAD Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement was awarded to Kord Technologies in July 2019. Last month, the Army exercised an option on the OTA to purchase the additional DE-MSHORAD prototypes to be delivered by September 2022, for a total of four 50 kW-class laser Stryker vehicles. The industry team also includes Rocky Research for laser support equipment and General Dynamics for Stryker vehicle support.
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 also looks to field a 300-kilowatt Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser, or IFPC-HEL, and IFPC-High Powered Microwave, or HPM, at the platoon level in support of brigade air defense artillery operations in fiscal 2024.