The US Army is moving forward with a new 100-kW laser weapon, awarding US$10 million to Lockheed Martin and Dynetics to continue development of the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD). Designed to counter low cost, high volume threats, the new mobile battlefield laser is the latest in the American effort to produce incrementally more powerful and accurate directed energy weapons.

According to Lockheed, the contract follows the completion of a System Requirements Review and technical baseline update – opening the way to a preliminary design review in January 2019. Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed will supply the laser itself drawing on its experience in the Army's Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) program. Meanwhile, Dynetics will handle the task of integrating the weapon into the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV).

The new laser is a fiber-optic solid-state laser that combines several lasers into a single beam of much greater power by means of a Spectral Beam Combining device. It's equipped with an optical system to focus the beam and to compensate for atmospheric turbulence, as well as a self-contained cooling and power supply. HEL TVD draws on technology originally developed for the US Army ATHENA system and ALADIN lasers, the US Air Force LANCE program, and the US Navy HELIOS and HEFL systems.

Lockheed, Dynetics and their partners are operating under the name Team Dynetics, which is one of two contractors competing to produce the laser demonstrator by 2022. The winner will go on to install their laser weapon on an Army FMTV platform before field testing is carried out at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

"The proliferation of hostile unmanned aerial systems and rockets, artillery and mortars present an increasing threat to deployed US troops," says Iain McKinnie, Lockheed Martin business development lead for Advanced Laser Solutions and Strategy. "Laser weapons offer a deep magazine and very low cost per shot making them ideally suited to complement existing kinetic energy weapons to address intense UAS swarms and RAM raids. The Army's HEL TVD program is a critical step toward realizing this potential, culminating in 2022 testing of a mobile 100 kW-class laser weapon system fully integrated with an Army FMTV truck."