US needs megawatt class combat lasers to counter hypersonic missiles

Michael Griffin, the undersecretary for research and engineering, expects future budgets to provide funds for lasers that the missile defense agency can more rapidly develop and field. Space-control needs to have megawatt-class lasers.

Hypersonic weapons’ low signature in flight and high degree of maneuverability upon final approach to targets make the weapons difficult to defend against.

The last time the US really invested in transformative capabilities that overwhelmed adversaries [in Desert Storm] was the Reagan era.

300 kilowatts by 2023 and megawatt by 2028

Michael Griffin said

“We need to have 100-kilowatt-class weapons on Army theater vehicles. We need to have 300-kilowatt-class weapons on Air Force tankers,” Griffin said. “We need to have megawatt-class directed energy weapons in space for space defense. These are things we can do over the next decade if we can maintain our focus.”

Scientists he’s been talking with have told him that level of laser power is five to six years away and a “megawatt laser” is within a decade with persistent investment.

The US military is boosting combat laser funding to a billion dollars or more.

The US has funded several combat laser deployments over the next three years.

Lockheed Martin is being awarded a $150 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Surface Navy Laser Weapon System Increment 1, High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with a surveillance system. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $943 million.

The combat lasers will be 150-kilowatts and could get upgraded to 300 kilowatts for more range and power.