It seems that, on turning any corner in the current land domain, a system designed by, developed by or collaborated on by Raytheon sits there, lurking. In addition to its wide range of initiatives and programme bids, several of which have been reported by MON from AUSA this week, the company is continuing to expand its high-energy laser (HEL) portfolio.
Evan Hunt, the company’s Business Development Director for HEL, told MON that, in one case, his team is developing a 10kW laser, powered by high-energy lithium-ion batteries typically used in the hybrid vehicle industry. The laser system also uses modified off-the-shelf fibre lasers used in the cutting and welding industry. “These are scalable building blocks combined into one beam, routed through a multi-spectral targeting system which is a very advanced TRL [technology readiness level] 9 sensor. MTS flies on many aircraft, including the PREDATOR and REAPER,” he explained. The 10kW system’s conceptual target set includes Class 1 and 2 unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the smallest of five categories in the US Department of Defense (DoD) classification system , at a range of “several kilometres.” The US Air Force has bought two 10kW laser systems to assess overseas. While the 10kW system was mounted on a Polaris MRZR 4 light vehicle at AUSA, its modularity permits its plug-and-play fitting onto numerous other military or even civilian vehicles.
Raytheon will also supply a scaled-up version of the 10kW laser to Kord Technologies, as the latter company leads the US Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) Directed Energy (DE) initiative. A related contract, awarded to Kord this August, allows that firm to integrate 50kW-class laser weapon systems on STRYKER combat vehicles, to address the Army’s urgent need to defeat small UAS and rocket, artillery and mortar threats. Raytheon’s 50kW system will be ready to demonstrate in 2021.
Northrop Grumman is the second supplier providing a 50kW system to Kord as part of this competitive contract.
Raytheon is also supporting a Cooperative Research and Development (CRAD) agreement with the US Army’s Program Executive Office Aviation PEO Rotary Wing Program Executive Office-Rotary Wing (RW) for the service’s APACHE and BLACKHAWK fleets. The agreement is for the delivery of one laser pod, in order to test its reliability as a targeting sensor and complete other airborne missions.
Mr Hunt concluded that, while Raytheon competes for higher power, scaling programmes, “our near-term focus is on getting these 10kW and 50kW systems to the field and making them rugged, more mature and ready for technical transition.”