Lockheed Martin has won a US$150 million contract with options for another US$942 million to develop and manufacture two high-energy laser weapons for the US Navy. The new systems will combine Lockheed's first-of-a-kind High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system for defense against Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) with long-range Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and is expected to be delivered for installation on surface warships by fiscal year 2020.

The HELIOS laser weapon builds on Lockheed's in-company research on its ATHENA system and the ALADIN laser, as well as the US Army/Directed Energy Joint Technology Office's Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) program, the US Air Force's Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) program and the US Navy's High Energy Fiber Laser (HEFL) program.

HELIOS is based on a series of fiber-optic lasers that are combined using a spectral beam system to produce a single, high-powered beam of light. Using fiber-optic cables means that the laser is solid state and that the cables can be folded in on themselves to make the weapon compact. However, the need to minimize vibrations and to provide adequate electricity to power the laser requires it to be installed on a relatively stable platform with adequate generating capacity – a requirement that a warship meets admirably.

According to Lockheed, HELIOS is the first laser weapon to combine a high-energy laser capable of destroying or disabling UAVS or small boats with a longe-range ISR capability to identify and study possible targets. In addition, HELIOS can act as a dazzler weapon that can blind the sensors on a UAV without the need to destroy the vehicle itself, and it has an energy and thermal management system for easier integration with the ship carrying it

The first of two lasers will be delivered in 2020. One will be installed in an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the other will be sent to the US Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for testing.

"The HELIOS program is the first of its kind, and brings together laser weapon, long-range ISR and counter-UAS capabilities, dramatically increasing the situational awareness and layered defense options available to the U.S. Navy," says Michele Evans, vice president and general manager of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors. "This is a true system of capabilities, and we're honored the Navy trusted Lockheed Martin to be a part of fielding these robust systems to the fleet."