The Army has released a contract opportunity for high energy lasers (HELs) with a power and thermal subsystem and sensor package for Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft System (C-sUAS) capabilities to increase lethality while decreasing risks of collateral damage.

The opportunity is being fielded through the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO). The RCCTO Directed Energy Project Office conducted an analysis on how HELs could be used to enhance C-sUAS systems which resulted in a request for industry whitepapers on the capabilities, an Army spokesperson told Defense Daily last week. 

“In support of the JCO [Joint C-sUAS Office], the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) Directed Energy Project Office performed an analysis on using High Energy Lasers (HELs) to enhance fielded Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-sUAS) capabilities,” an Army spokesperson said via email. “The initial analysis is complete and this solicitation is the result, seeking 20kW-class Laser Weapons System solutions.”

The HELs need to be able to detect, characterize, and possess hard-kill capabilities of UAS that weigh up to 55 lbs and operate within 3,500 feet above ground level at speeds up to 250 knots, according to the Army’s Feb. 9 announcement on the federal contract opportunity site, The HELs also need to have an open system architecture and interface with the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control system. The Army is looking for these technologies to have a Technology Readiness Level of seven and a Manufacturing Readiness Level of five. 

“This solicitation is a call for white papers to demonstrate a 20kW-class laser weapon system tailored for C-sUAS,” an Army spokesperson said. “We are looking to demonstrate a modular C-sUAS system with well-defined subsystem interfaces (power and thermal, laser, sensor, and BMC2) to produce a laser technology-agnostic solution.  The government believes this approach will enable competition at the subsystem level and drive down costs by establishing a competitive marketplace for this laser technology.”

While the Army is fielding this capability it is still part of the wider JCO effort and will contribute to the current technology already in use. 

“This demonstration effort complements current Air Force High Energy Laser efforts which will lead to a JCO sponsored prototyping effort expected to begin in FY23,” an Army spokesperson said. “The Army RCCTO will continue to collaborate with the JCO and joint services to provide solutions.”