The Army has tapped Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon [RTN] to develop competing 50-kilowatt laser prototypes to be integrated on Stryker vehicles with a goal of delivering a platoon of four test systems fiscal year 2022, officials said Thursday.
Officials from the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) also announced that a separate program to build a 100-kilowatt laser to be integrated on Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle trucks has been adjusted to go after emerging technologies for a 250 to 300 kw capability.
“The time is now to get directed energy (DE) weapons to the battlefield,” Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, the Army’s director of hypersonics, DE, space and rapid acquisition, said in a statement. “The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan. This is no longer a research effort or a demonstration effort. It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in soldiers’ hands.”
The Army officially awarded a $203 million prototype OTA to Kord Technologies, of which Northrop Grumman and Raytheon will serve as subcontractors tasked with developing and demonstrating an initial 50-kw capability within a year.
The deal could increase to up to $490 million when the Army decides to purchase the four total prototype systems to be delivered in FY ’22.
RCCTO is running the 50-kw laser program in support of the Army’s Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense modernization effort, with the goal of finding a directed energy tool capable of taking down unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft and rockets, artillery and mortars.
“Both the Army and commercial industry have made substantial improvements in the efficiency of high energy lasers – to the point where we can get militarily significant laser power onto a tactically relevant platform,” Dr. Craig Robin, RCCTO’s senior research scientist for directed energy applications, said in a statement. “Now, we are in position to quickly prototype, compete for the best solution, and deliver to a combat unit.”
Officials said future M-SHORAD directed energy requirements will remain open for vendors not selected for the prototype work.
Lt. Gen Paul Ostrowski, a top Army acquisition official, has previously said a 50-kw laser on a Stryker will allow the force to move away from “shooting $100,000 missiles at $7,000 UASs” toward an option with the “ability to have an unlimited magazine” (Defense Daily, July 16).
RCCTO also said it will adjust the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) effort currently slated to deliver a 100-kilowatt technology demonstrator in August 2022, and will now take advantage of Navy efforts to go after a 250 to 300kw laser.
The goal for HEL TVD is to now deliver four prototype lasers integrated on tactical vehicles for the High Energy Laser-Indirect Fire Protection Capability (HEL-IFPC) to a platoon by Fiscal Year 2024, according to officials.
“By teaming with the other services and our industry partners, we will not only save resources, but exponentially increase the power level and get a better system to soldiers faster,” Thurgood said.
A Dynetics and Lockheed Martin [LMT] team received a three-year, $130 million contract in May to develop and test the HEL TVD laser tech demonstrator (Defense Daily, May 16).