The U.S. Army will test 50-kilowatt laser weapons built by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon from Stryker combat vehicles from the third quarter of fiscal 2021.
The head of the Army’s Directed-Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) effort, said soldiers will be firing lasers from vehicles starting next year. "The soldiers will actually do the combat shoot-off; it won't be done by contractors," Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space, and Rapid Acquisition, said during a Defense News space and missile defense webinar.
On July 26 last year, the service issued a contract award to accelerate the rapid prototyping and fielding of its first combat-capable laser weapon system. Northrop and Raytheon were both awarded Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement valued $203 million that includes Kord Technologies as the prime contractor.
The Army plans to team the directed-energy M-SHORAD Strykers with kinetic M-SHORADs, which will be equipped with more conventional air defense weapons. "In the operational construct, there is a mix of kinetic killers and directed-energy killers,” Thurgood noted.
This prototype will deliver 50 kilowatt (kW)-class lasers on a platoon of four Stryker vehicles in Fiscal Year 2022, supporting the Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) mission. The directed energy M-SHORAD capability is intended to protect maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery and mortar (RAM).
After the Army evaluates the results, it plans to purchase three additional laser-equipped Strykers, for a total of four prototype vehicles that would be fielded to an operational M-SHORAD platoon in Fiscal Year 2022. The OTA award has the potential to increase to $490 million for the delivery of the four prototypes.
The directed energy M-SHORAD prototypes are part of the progression of an Army technology maturation initiative known as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL).