US Air Force expects second high-energy laser system contract

07 August 2019

A target unmanned aircraft system (UAS) after being shot by Raytheon’s High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) device in an undated test. Source: Raytheon

Key Points

  • The US Air Force expects to award another contract for a high-energy laser system
  • Additional companies are being considered as the effort moves closer to a programme of record

The US Air Force (USAF) expects to award another High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) contract, having made its first award to Raytheon on 2 August.

Michael Jirjis, directed energy weapons experimentation campaign lead with the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL's) Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office, told Jane's on 5 August that two companies, including Raytheon, were able to perform in the late 2018 experimentation event. The USAF, he said, had success with both companies and is moving forward with each.

Jirjis said Raytheon and its HELWS device were the first to make it through the awards process. The USAF did not respond to an additional request for comment on the second company prior to publication.

The two HELWS contracts are not part of a downselect. Jirjis said the USAF has another experimentation event occurring in a few months where different companies will be participating in the service's continental US (CONUS) event. Seven companies, Jirjis said, are being considered as the USAF moves toward an acquisition programme.

Raytheon will develop two prototype ground-based HELWS devices in the 10 kilowatt (kW) power class as part of its contract. The company integrated its high-energy laser on a Polaris MRZR, a type of all-terrain vehicle. The system is stand-alone with a footprint of approximately 9 sq m.

Raytheon's HELWS award provides for field assessment outside the continental United States (OCONUS) for experimentation purposes. Jirjis declined to say where, exactly, outside the continental US Raytheon's field assessments would take place, but said the USAF is supporting its overseas airmen with their urgent needs.

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