The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is asking industry for pulsed laser prototype ideas a year after the Defense Department moved previous directed energy funds out of the agency.

According to a Request For Information (RFI) issued February 11, MDA “is interested in the applicability of pulsed laser weapons against ballistic, hypersonic, and cruise missile threats in all phases of flight.”

Missile Defense Agency logo

The solicitation said in this case a pulsed laser weapon “could have a nanosecond, picosecond, or femtosecond pulse width.” MDA is particularly, looking for pulsed laser prototype weapon system concepts that are “capable of Directed Energy kill.”

This RFI comes about a year after the Defense Department moved directed energy funds out of MDA and consolidated them under the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, OUSD(R&E) (Defense Daily, Feb. 24, 2020).

During the MDA’s presentation of its FY ’21 budget request in February 2020, MDA director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said this was not dumping the program but “kind of a shift in the priorities and how we do things across the department,” led by former OUSD (R&E) Michael Griffin.

Hill said while the directed energy dollars were no longer in the MDA budget, he was “absolutely confident: when the technology reaches the right stage, MDA would have access to it and use it.

Previously, the agency’s FY ’20 budget request sought $661 million in the Directed Energy Demonstrator Development program over the FY 2020-2024 period.

In this new RFI, MDA said concepts for a pulsed laser prototype weapon are specifically desired to inform future architectures. The agency said that besides laser weapon beam control and propagation of the beam, the industry concepts should consider technologies required for acquisition, tracking, and handover to the pulsed laser weapon.

“Concepts should describe the prototype weapon system host platform (e.g. ground, sea, air, and/or space-based) for the specific mission area(s) to inform future architectures. If necessary, submissions should consider utilizing a pulsed laser weapon testbed that is capable of collecting phenomenology, performing subscale technology demonstrations, informing prototype requirements, reducing risk, and maturing component technologies,” the notice said.

MDA underscored transportable testbeds are desired if available. It said testbeds should show traceability and extensibility to the prototype concept.

“Submissions should consider the effectiveness/performance of the prototype weapon system and the costs of both the prototype and any testbed,” MDA said.

MDA also desires laser concepts that leverage commercial and/or other government agency developments and concepts that are capable of informing multi-mission capabilities.

Responses are due, in electronic white paper form, by March 12.