By Ann Roosevelt

In the next couple of weeks the Army Space and Missile Defense/Army Forces Strategic Command expects a request for proposals to go out for a solid-state laser (SSL) test bed, according to a command official.

“What we would like to do is take that laser and move it to [the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility] HELSTF, integrate it with an existing pointer-tracker out there…to accept the SSL wavelength,” Brian Strickland, program director for the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL), told Defense Daily March 18.

The plan is to have the laser in place at HELSTF at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., this time next year coupled to an existing beam director used with the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), create the test bed and then begin static tests, moving on to dynamic tests, he said.

It’s possible to have an operational, deployable SSL in the 2015-2020 time period, Strickland said.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Textron [TXT] have been working on the JHPSSL program Phase 3.

Northrop Grumman March 12 announced its SSL achieved its final Phase 3 milestone with a record of more than 100 kilowatts of power.

Another program, the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstration (HEL TD), is working to build a beam director on a mobile platform. Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman separately are working on Phase 2 of the program.

Once the HEL TD is finished, it would be driven up next to the SSL facility and connected, Strickland said.

The Army and other Defense Department agencies have been pursuing a variety of military-grade lasers for more than 30 years. The work has included development and testing of chemical and solid-state lasers.

The logistics price is high with high power chemical lasers, though they have been successful in testing against rockets, mortars and artillery. The chemical fuels add to the logistics burden at a time when the Army is looking to reduce that footprint. Solid State lasers require diesel fuel, already part of the Army inventory.

Additionally, Strickland said the coming hybrid electric platforms would be a “perfect complement” for SSL once they are in the service inventory.

The results of the SSL tests will be the basis for directing future development of SSLs as a weapon system.

The Army sees a variety of uses for an SSL weapon: protection against rockets, artillery and mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles, dealing with unexploded ordnance and IEDs from a standoff distance, anti-sensor applications, and ultra precision strike.