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nLight wins another laser weapon contract

29 Nov 2023

US provider of high-energy sources selected for $34.5M project to integrate 50kW laser on combat vehicle.

The high-power semiconductor and fiber laser manufacturer nLight says it has won another significant contract to provide a high-energy source for a laser weapon.

It has signed a $34.5 million deal to support the US Army’s “Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD)” prototyping effort, in collaboration with main contractor Kord Technologies.

The 18-month award will see nLight’s lasers used in a 50 kilowatt-class weapon that is due to be integrated on board a “Stryker” combat vehicle, where it could eventually be used to destroy or disable threats such as drones, mortars, rockets, and other projectiles.

The latest award comes just a few weeks after the company announced the extension of another US Department of Defense contract to develop a megawatt-class weapon under the “High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI)” project. Lasers with that kind of power are thought to be capable of neutralizing ballistic missiles.

Based in Huntsville, Alabama - where much of the US Army’s laser weapons development takes place - Kord was previously involved in a project to deliver four laser-equipped Strykers, working with Raytheon. Lockheed Martin has also provided lasers intended for Stryker vehicles.

Adaptive optics for focused power
Commenting on the latest development, nLight’s CEO Scott Keeney said: “High-energy lasers are moving out of the lab and into the field.

“For over a decade, nLight has been focused on developing and manufacturing innovative, reliable, field-serviceable, and affordable high-power fiber lasers for both commercial and defense customers.

“We are proud of our partnership with Kord and RCCTO [the US Army’s Rapid Capabilities Critical Technologies Office], and we look forward to leveraging our dual-use business model to accelerate the development and delivery of innovative and affordable lasers to the warfighter.”

Keeney’s colleague Jeff Barchers, who heads up the firm’s defense systems business unit, added: “Our integrated HEL and beam control solutions use adaptive optics to focus more power on target and maximize laser lethality.

“Our vertically integrated approach to laser design and manufacturing enables us to control every aspect of system design. As a result, we can produce ruggedized lasers using components that are line-replaceable units and can be serviced by a soldier in the field, which we believe is critical to long-term adoption of directed energy laser weapons.”

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