US Army moves forward with 100kW laser weapon programme

Dynetics and Lockheed Martin have been awarded $10m for the next phase of development in the US Army’s 100kW-class laser weapon system.

laser weapon
The high energy laser counters unmanned aerial systems, rockets, artillery, and mortars (Credit: PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

The High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) has recently undergone a System Requirements Review and technical baseline update. According to Lockheed, laser weapons of this size are suited to high volume, low cost threats due to their inexpensive cost per shot and deep magazine. The 100kW weapon is being developed specifically with the army’s Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) in mind and incorporates a ruggedised design and subsystems for battlefield conditions. The next phase of the programme will now build towards a preliminary design review of the of the HEL TVD in January 2019.

“Dynetics, Lockheed Martin and our partners are providing a safe and simple high energy laser weapon system that crews can operate for years to come and across various terrains,” said Ronnie Chronister, Dynetics vice president of contracts. “We pulled together a cross-industry leading team, which has the expertise and knowledge to understand exactly what is needed. We believe that our solution will be straightforward and will be the type of system that will be preferred by the army.”

Alabama-based Dynetics is one of two remaining lead contractors competing to build the HEL TVD demonstrator that will be tested in 2022. Lockheed is providing the spectral beam-combined fibre laser subsystem, drawing on its experience with the army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) programme, which also saw laser weapons integrated with ground vehicles. According to the defence company, it has been developing laser weapons for over 40 years, including the ATHENA system and HELIOS laser.

“The proliferation of hostile unmanned aerial systems and rockets, artillery and mortars present an increasing threat to deployed US troops,” said Iain McKinnie, Lockheed Martin business development lead for Advanced Laser Solutions and Strategy.

“Laser weapons offer a deep magazine and very low cost per shot making them ideally suited to complement existing kinetic energy weapons to address intense UAS swarms and RAM raids. The Army’s HEL TVD programme is a critical step toward realising this potential, culminating in 2022 testing of a mobile 100kW-class laser weapon system fully integrated with an army FMTV truck.”