Lockheed Martin [LMT] April 24 said the Army awarded it a $25 million contract to design, build and test a 60-kilowatt electric laser to be integrated and tested in a truck-mounted weapon system demonstrator.

The laser weapon is designed to significantly improve the warfighters’ ability to counter rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned aerial threats. Since the laser beam travels at the speed of light, the Army has been pursuing different types of lasers toward a platform mounted tactical laser weapon system.

Under a contract managed by Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Technical Center, the Lockheed Martin-provided laser will be integrated on the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD).

The 60-kilowatt laser builds on the firm’s work under the current Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) contract for the Army.

Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) Photo: Lockheed Martin
Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI)
Photo: Lockheed Martin

In 2010, Army Space and Missile Defense Command awarded the company a $14 million contract to design, develop, build and test a first-of-its-kind high power fiber laser based system that would be suitable for military operation. That contract had options that, if all were exercised, would bring the contract total value to $59 million.

“Lockheed Martin continues to advance its high-energy fiber laser technology to provide a proven, affordable weapon architecture that supports the size, weight, and power constraints our customers face,” said Paula Hartley, vice president of Advanced Product Solutions for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “Our solution is much smaller, lighter and more electrically efficient than others in the market and can bring tremendous value to the Army and other military customers.”

The corporation’s electric laser system implements multiple compact, rugged fiber laser modules to generate a high power output beam with excellent beam quality and high electrical efficiency. A unique spectral beam combining process is used to combine many fiber lasers into a single beam of light that retains the high beam quality of the individual fiber modules while reaching the 60 kilowatt mark.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin said it had demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber laser, the highest power ever documented while retaining beam quality and electrical efficiency. The internally funded research and development demonstration was achieved by combining many fiber lasers into a single, near-perfect quality beam of light–all while using approximately 50 percent less electricity than alternative solid-state laser technologies.

This successful demonstration marked a significant milestone on the path to deploying a mission-relevant laser weapon system for a wide range of air, land and sea military platforms.

Lockheed Martin said it has specialized in directed energy laser weapon system development for the past 30 years and purchased Aculight, in Bothell, Wash., in 2008 to further strengthen its offerings at every level–from pioneering research to solid prototyping and flexible manufacturing.