By Ann Roosevelt

Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] were awarded options to continue advancing work on a High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) able to counter rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM).

The Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT), Huntsville, Ala., on Aug. 15 issued Boeing a $36 million award for Phase II work for beam control system (BCS) completion and system engineering.

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $1.4 million option for Phase II BCS system engineering.

The two primary technology components for the HEL TD program are the high-energy solid-state laser (SSL) and the BCS.

Boeing will complete the HEL design, then build, test and evaluate a rugged BCS on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). The vehicle development will lead to the development of a truck-mounted laser weapon. Boeing also will develop the system-engineering requirements for the entire HEL TD laser weapon system.

To reduce program risk, the SSL and BCS technologies are being matured through the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program and the HEL TD program, respectively.

In a future development/integration contract, the HEL TD program will integrate a rugged SSL, associated power generation, thermal management, and fire control / communications elements onto the wheeled tactical platform with previously integrated BCS.

This integrated HEL TD weapons capability will demonstrate its capability to counter rockets, artillery, mortars in a relevant operational environment by 2015. This will provide the US Army with a mobile, high energy solid state laser weapon system demonstrator

“The goal of the HEL TD program is to place in the hands of Army Commanders an effective lethal capability to counter RAM projectiles, Bill Gnacek, HEL TD program manager at SMDC/ARSTRAT, said in a Aug. 18 statement. “Completion and testing of the BCS is the next step.”

“This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army’s high-energy laser program,” Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said in a statement. “HEL TD will give warfighters a transformational capability to counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles.”

Under the options, Boeing will complete the design and fabrication of the rugged HEL TD Beam Control system, integrate it on the vehicle, and conduct test and evaluation at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), the company said in a statement to Defense Daily. In 2010, low power demonstrations of the HEL TD System against real targets but using a surrogate High Energy Laser (multi-watt) are scheduled at HELSTF at White Sands Missile Range during phase II.

High power (100 kilowatt class) demonstrations of the HEL TD system against real targets will occur in 2013 in Phase III.

The HEL TD program is managed at the SMDC/ARSTRAT headquarters on Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

Boeing spent the past year developing the preliminary design of the HEL TD BCS.

Separately, Northrop Grumman announced the successful completion of all preliminary design review requirements.

“While rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles have traditionally been difficult threats to defeat, HEL TD’s speed-of-light, ultra-precision capability will meet the warfighter’s needs in this vital mission area,” Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems, said.

Boeing already is developing high-energy laser systems for a variety of military applications, including the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, the Tactical Relay Mirror System and the Laser Avenger.

Northrop Grumman is developing a military grade SSL for the JHPSSL, and is also working on the Airborne Laser, Skyguard and the Tactical High Energy Laser.