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Northrop Grumman to develop 50kW laser for US Army vehicles

06 Aug 2019

Systems approach intended to enable platform solution with "next-gen" capabilities for mobile Stryker forces.

Military technology systems developer Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract for the U.S. Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) directed energy prototyping initiative.

The initiative includes integrating a directed energy weapon system on a Stryker vehicle as a pathfinding effort toward the M-SHORAD objective of providing more comprehensive protection of frontline combat units.

Under the terms of the deal, Northrop Grumman is to develop and integrate a directed energy prototype solution on a Stryker combat vehicle for the U.S. Army to better protect highly mobile frontline units.

Dan Verwiel, VP and general manager, missile defense and protective systems at NG, commented, “Our flexible, open systems approach offers an end-to-end solution for the Army’s growing and ever-changing mission requirements in today’s complex threat environment.”

Under the initiative from the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and a contract from Kord Technologies, Northrop Grumman will build and integrate a suite of advanced sensors; target acquisition and tracking; a 50-kilowatt class laser system; and battle-tested command-and-control on an Army Stryker combat vehicle. 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).

Key elements of MMHEL

The U.S. Army’s Multi-Mission High Energy Laser fact sheet describes the essence of the MMHEL as follows:

”The MMHEL will consist of a 50 kW-class laser projected through a precision pointing, high-velocity target tracking beam control system. To support the laser and beam control system, the MMHEL will have power and thermal management systems that power and cool all the subsystems and provide sufficient magazine to defeat many targets.

“The onboard Battle Management, Communications, Command, and Control subsystem will process cues and target engagements. The large-aperture optical system for the laser also provides an excellent system for long range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance. The precision pointing of the laser system also enables the MMHEL to conduct precision targeting missions against ground targets.”

The integrated platform allows early involvement with warfighter users to develop tactics, techniques, procedures and concepts of operations for future high energy laser weapons. The Army’s future M-SHORAD protection for forward-deployed soldiers includes laser weapon systems as an effective complement to kinetic capabilities in countering rockets, artillery and mortars; unmanned aircraft systems; and other aerial threats.

The M-SHORAD directed energy prototyping initiative is managed by the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which is based at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

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