The laser pod referred to in this award is likely to be the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD). In August Northrop Grumman was selected to develop the laser beam director turret for this high energy laser weapons system designed to protect tactical fighter planes from incoming missiles.
Northrop Grumman was awarded a USD39.3 million contract related to the development of a laser-based self-defence system for the US Air Force (USAF).
Grumman was contract was by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on 23 August. It was for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Turret Research in Aero-Effects (STRAFE) programme. Grumman will develop and deliver an advanced beam control system for integration as part of a complete laser weapons system into a tactical pod for USAF fighter aircraft. Work is expected to be complete by 31 August 2021.
It is intended that the SHiELD pod would better enable the USAF's fourth-generation fighter fleet, such as the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, to survive in contested airspace. The fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II would probably not carry the pod, as it would negate their stealth characteristics.