AUSA 2019: Lockheed Martin weighs options for achieving a 250-300 kW air-defence laser

14 October 2019

Artist’s impression of the Dynetics team’s HEL TVD solution. Source: Dynetics

Lockheed Martin is working with the US Army to determine an updated design for a forthcoming air-defence laser weapon, seeking to field a 250-300 kW laser.

The army in May selected a team of Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, and Rolls-Royce to develop an experimental 100 kW laser weapon system for its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) under its High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) programme, a developmental effort to counter unmanned aircraft as well as rocket, artillery, and mortar (RAM) attacks.

The three-year USD130 million contract is to lead towards a critical design review, likely to be held before the end of the year, that will help determine the final laser design, Paul Lemmo, Lockheed Martin's vice-president and general manager for Integrated Warfare Systems & Sensors, told Jane's at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.

The army recently reshuffled its directed energy programmes, and the HEL TVD capabilities are to be considered for a potential technology insertion to address the army's Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) Increment 2 - Intercept Block 2 requirements. The army has said it envisions an IFPC laser in the 250-300 kW range.

For HEL TVD Lockheed Martin is working as system integrator and providing the laser. Lemmo said the company is using spectrally beam-combined (SBC) fibre lasers specifically for reliability and scalability, so he believes scaling up to 300 kW is an achievable goal.

"It's an engineering problem, not an invention problem," Eric Karn, a programme manager at Lockheed Martin, told Jane's at the same event. The laser can be scaled up to more power by adding more modules, an individual component that puts out a certain number of kilowatts. More modules can be combined as long as the prism can handle the load and the power and cooling systems can support it.

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