The U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] an initial contract of $53 million to produce a 150-kilowatt-class solid state laser weapon system for naval ship defense, the company said Tuesday.

Under a three-phase Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) contract, Northrop Grumman is to design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of the laser system. The initial $53 million award supports work planned for the first 12 months. If all options are exercised, the contract cost could increase to $91 million over 34 months.

Artist's conception of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator aboard the U.S. Navy's Self Defense Test Ship. Image: Northrop Grumman.
Artist’s conception of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator aboard the U.S. Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship. Image: Northrop Grumman.

“Northrop Grumman is integrating the latest in high energy lasers with more than 40 years of experience as a laser weapon system integrator to protect sailors against last-minute, high impact threats,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager of directed energy at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” Renard added.

During contract Phase 1, the company is to develop a detailed design for a new system. Phase 2 entails assembly and ground test of the laser system. Phase 3 includes at-sea testing of the system aboard the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS). During the final phase the Navy is set to lead the testing with the company providing technical support.

The SDTS is the former USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964).

Renard noted the company’s LWSD is a good choice for the Navy’s testing, although it was previously designed to be installed for demonstration on the Navy’s DDG-51 FLT II class destroyers.