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Update: US Army laser weapon programme competitor reaches development milestone

Lockheed Martin's Directed Energy Interceptor for Manoeuvre Short-Range Air Defence System demonstrated ‘first light' in January 2023. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin on 23 January announced its offering for the US Army's directed-energy weapon programme reached ‘first light', a development milestone that comes ahead of an expected competition to build the capability for the service.

Lockheed Martin's 50 kW Directed Energy Interceptor for Manoeuvre Short-Range Air Defence System (DEIMOS) achieved a first light demonstration on 13 January at the company's laser facility in Bothell, Washington state. The test measures the beam quality of the system and evaluates the spectral beam combination (SBC) architecture, a milestone for the weapon technology as it prepares to compete for the army's Directed Energy Manoeuvre Short-Range Air Defence (DE M-SHORAD) programme.

DEIMOS – which will eventually compete against a system designed by Kord Technologies and Raytheon – could be ready for field integration tests by 2024, Lockheed Martin officials told Janes on 23 January.

“The key benefit of the company's SBC is that power can be scaled while retaining the excellent beam quality of the individual fibre lasers,” according to a statement.

The army, through its Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), is developing DE M-SHORAD as part of its modernisation efforts to achieve air dominance in more contested battlefields.

The laser is designed to protect divisions and brigade combat teams from drones, mortars, rotary-wing aircraft, missiles, and other airborne threats, said Tyler Griffin, advanced product solutions, strategy, and business development director at Lockheed Martin.

“That's a very broad threat set, and these prototypes … are going to prove out capabilities relative to that entire threat set,” he told Janes .

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