The Army will roll out initial capabilities for both its 50 and 100-kilowatt laser programs in 2022 as well as pushing toward a hypersonics capability by 2023 with plans to test missile booster stacks every six to nine months, a top service acquisition official said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the Army acquisition chief, told attendees at an Association of the United States Army event the force is focused on building “movable” hypersonics and directed energy assets, while also exploring a potential 250 kw laser capability.

Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, Military Deputy/Director, Army Acquisition Corps, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology). Photo: U.S. Army.

 Ostrowski specifically noted that the Army, in cooperation with the Navy, will transition to using a 34.5-inch missile stack booster for its hypersonics test following an initial demonstration with a 50-inch capability in the second quarter of FY ’20.

The move to a 34.5-inch stack is more compatible with the Army’s heavy tactical vehicles as well as the Navy’s ships and subsurface systems, according to Ostrowski. 

The joint services are collectively working on the hypersonics effort, signing a memorandum of agreement last June, with the Army taking on the task of producing the glide body.

Ostrowski reiterated that the Army is set to field one battery of the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon in FY ’23, which officials have said will consist of four vehicles each outfitted with two missiles (Defense Daily, June 4). 

For the 50 kw laser program, the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MM HEL), the Army is looking to demonstrate an initial prototype in 2021 before fielding an initial set of four Stryker-mounted systems in 2022.

“The advantage of the laser, in this case what we’re calling the MM HEL, is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery and mortars. Before, we were shooting $100,000 missiles at $7,000 UASs,” Ostrowski said. “This put us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid and cheaper fashion.”

Ostrowski called the 100 kw High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator the “bigger brother” to the MM HEL, noting that its integration on Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle trucks will allow the Army to get after a “moveable asset.” 

In May, the Army selected a team of Dynetics and Lockheed Martin [LMT] to develop and test the 100 kw laser system with a goal to deliver a technology demonstrator in August 2022 (Defense Daily, May 16). 

Army officials are also exploring 250 kw laser opportunities with the Navy, according to Ostrowski. 

“The intent is to work with the Navy, and we are doing that right now, in order to increase the power of that laser system from beyond 100 kw into maybe the 250 kw mark,” Ostrowski said.