Army boosting combat laser power by ten times to 50-100 kilowatts starting in 2018

A truck-fired 50 kW laser weapon — an upgrade of the lumbering HEL-MTT — will be test fired in 2018. A 100 kW weapon on a more mobile vehicle — perhaps an 8×8 Stryker or tracked Bradley — will be test-fired in 2022. Currently the army is testing 5 to 10 kilowatt weapons on trucks and the Stryker.

Moving up in power will mean being able to take out helicopters, low flying planes and possibly cruise missiles. Current weapons are targeting quadcopters and mortars.

The new dates are slippage by one year from the schedules announced in 2016.

The US Army is spending from $17 million to $30 million per year from 2017 to 2021 on High Energy Laser (HEL) weapons technology.

The major effort under this project is the phased approach for mobile high power solid state laser (SSL) technology demonstrations that are traceable to the form, fit, and function requirements for a HEL weapon. At entry level weapon power of around 10 kW, SSL technology has the potential to engage and defeat small caliber mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), surface mines, sensors, and optics. At full weapon system power levels of around 100 kW, SSL technology has the potential to engage and defeat rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM), UAVs, cruise missiles, sensors, and optics at tactically relevant ranges. HELs are expected to complement conventional offensive and defensive weapons at a lower cost-per-shot than current systems and without the need to strategically, operationally, or tactically stockpile ordnance. This effort utilizes a modular building block approach with open systems architecture to ensure growth, interoperability, and opportunity for technology insertions for maturation of laser, beam control, sensor/radar, integration of power and thermal management subsystems, as well as Battle Management Command, Control, and Computers (BMC3).

The program is made up of Laser System Ruggedization and High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrations (HEL MD).

Laser System Ruggedization

This effort ruggedizes laser systems for integration on Army platforms. Ruggedization includes modifications of the laser system to withstand vibration, temperature, and contamination environments expected on various Army platforms, while ensuring platform volume, weight, and interface specifications are met.

In 2016, the US Army is continuing ruggedization of 50 kW class solid state laser subsystem components; and begin ruggedization of the BMC3 subsystem.

In 2017 2018, they will complete the ruggedization and preparation of platform to accept the 50 kW-class laser from Project 042; develop and integrate prime power and thermal management subsystems to support the 50 kW risk reduction testing in FY 2018 and optimize the command and control subsystem to manage the new laser, power, and thermal management subsystems.

Current army truck laser is 10KW but will be upgraded to 50 KW by 2017 2018 and then later to 100KW

High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrations (HEL MD)

In 2016, the demo effort was integrating a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) 10kW laser subsystem and demonstrated that performance.

The 50 kW-class laser from Project 042 will be integrated into the existing mobile laser demonstrator platform that includes the ruggedized beam control system (BCS) built under the High Energy Laser Technical Demonstration effort and other required subsystems to demonstrate weapon system performance. The goal is to demonstrate and evaluate performance of a complete mobile high energy laser system in a relevant environment.

Continue coordination activities for 50kW class laser demonstration and data collection events with range, the Laser Clearing House, and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) organizations; begin modifications of interfaces and integration of thermal management and power management subsystems; begin performance validation of integrated thermal management and
power management subsystems for the 50 kW class demonstration; and begin fabrication of interfaces and integration of laser
subsystem components.

They will begin integration of the ruggedized 50 kW class laser subsystems into an Army platform and perform functional verifications to validate system operation; coordinate with the national test range(s) and procure targets for a system risk reduction demonstration; demonstrate the 50 kW class configuration in the laboratory to verify the system meets the performance metrics prior to beginning integration on the Army platform.