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US Army taps Lockheed for 300 kW-class laser weapons

12 Oct 2023

Defense contractor signs deal to deliver two prototypes, with an option for two further units.

Lockheed Martin has won a contract to provide the US military with up to four 300 kW-class laser weapon systems.

Destined for the US Army’s “Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL)” prototype program, the arrangement will see Lockheed deliver two prototypes, with an option for two additional units.

News of the latest deal comes just over a year after the defense contractor delivered its first 300 kW laser - created through spectral beam combining - to the US Army, with Lockheed also working towards a new output power benchmark of 500 kW.

Rick Cordaro, the company VP responsible for Lockheed’s laser weapons, said in a release: “Winning the IFPC-HEL prototype contract is the result of several years of complex program evolution, strategic investments and partnership with the Army on this program.”

Major investment
Intended to counteract attacks from hostile drones, artillery, and rockets, the 300 kW-class laser weapons should also be able to damage helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

An output power of at least 100 kW has generally been regarded as necessary for a laser weapon to be capable of shooting down mortars and small drones at sufficiently large stand-off distances to be useful.

The ramp in power level compared with earlier versions of the technology effectively results in an extended range, meaning that targets can be engaged from a longer stand-off distance, as well as downing larger and more robust targets.

Lockheed has said previously that it reached the 300 kW level ahead of schedule, thanks to major investments in directed energy technology development at its sites in Washington state and Owego, New York.

The firm’s “Aculight” division, which developed spectral beam combining techniques and was acquired by Lockheed back in 2008, is located in Bothell, close to Seattle in Washington state.

Lockheed is also collaborating with Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop laser weapons for the planned "IRON BEAM" project, which would add laser defenses to Israel's existing "IRON DOME" systems for shooting down rockets and drone attacks.

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