World at War

Defense Contractors Compete to Make Army’s Next Laser Weapon

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The US Army has narrowed down to two teams — with very different approaches — who will build a 100-kilowatt laser to shoot down drones, rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds.

Lockheed is as close to an incumbent as you can get in the rapidly evolving world of high-energy fiber lasers. Raytheon, by contrast, only recently made a big play for laser weapons, investing in a new laser lab in McKinney, Texas, but they can draw on their experience with lower-powered but exquisitely-tuned laser sensors, as well as sophisticated targeting optics.

In this High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) contest in particular, much of the challenge for Lockheed Martin lies in making their laser weapons smaller while increasing their power. They’re going from the semi-trailer-mounted, 30kW ATHENA testbed, to the massive four-axle HEMTT Army truck used for their current 60 kW laser, to the three-axle FMTV for this 100 kW weapon. (Lockheed’s also developing lasers in the 60-plus kW range for the Navy and Air Force).

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Chris G. Long

Chis Long is an award winning writer for The San Andreas Times, and various other publications. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.

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