Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Tyler Griffin’s position at Lockheed Martin. He is the company’s director of advanced product solutions strategy and business development.
WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin wants in on an upcoming U.S. Army competition for a laser weapon-equipped, short-range air defense system expected to kick off in fiscal 2023, according to Tyler Griffin, who is director of the company’s advanced product solutions strategy and business development.
Taking its experience from other laser weapons programs — including an airborne laser weapon for the Air Force and a 300-kilowatt-class laser under development for the Army’s indirect fires protection capability, or IFPC, as part of a team with Dynetics — Lockheed is scaling its laser technology into what it’s calling DEIMOS.
DEIMOS stands for Directed Energy Interceptor for Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense, and is also the name of the Greek god of dread and terror. Lockheed is unveiling DEIMOS at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
DEIMOS is a 50-kilowatt-class laser weapon designed for integration onto a Stryker vehicle, much like the Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, prototypes the Army recently hired Kord Technologies to build. The KBR subsidiary won the contract in mid-2019. As the program’s prime contractor, Kord subsequently awarded subcontracts to Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Technologies to compete to supply the laser module.
The competition was intended to culminate in a shoot-off between those companies’ respective teams. Kord and the Army would then agree on a winner and proceed with integration of the chosen laser module onto three more Strykers to make a platoon’s worth of directed energy-capable SHORAD systems.
But Northrop experienced problems with the power and thermal management system supplied by Kord when integrated with its system, and a fire broke out during testing late last year. Problems persisted into the new year, and Northrop dropped out before the demonstration.
The Raytheon team moved on to demonstrate its system, and the Army chose to go forward with those prototypes. The company received a $123 million contract to supply the laser weapon.
But after those prototypes are built, Lockheed believes the Army will reopen the competition because the system will be “critical” in future operations against prolific threats like unmanned aircraft systems.
“We anticipate that competition towards the back end of FY23 and the production program of record starting in 2024,” Griffin said ahead of the AUSA event.
“We are looking at focusing on affordability, and affordability is much more than cost,” Griffin added. “We understand the Army’s focus on cost per kill, however, and providing the best value for the war fighter.”
The company plans to reuse technology developed in other programs and also extend its offering to include Army radar components, he noted.
The company is also investing in infrastructure over the next several years to make manufacturing advancements and improve network integration, according to Griffin. The company is also using digital twin technology to design faster and to “innovate more efficiently than was ever previously possible.” Lockheed is also showcasing that technology at AUSA.
Lockheed believes that once the Army completes the first four DE M-SHORAD prototypes, the service’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office will have a set of documents containing the technical data package and overall threshold requirements, and will deliver that to Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, which will kick off a program of record and launch a competition for the capability.
That handoff is expected in FY23.
Lockheed also said the architecture of the thermal system used in the prototype program is not the same architecture used in the DEIMOS offering; it instead uses a similar architecture to what the company delivered for the Air Force’s Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments program, Griffin said.
The company plans to push out a virtual twin for DEIMOS in December and will demonstrate the capability in the field in 2022.
A Dynetics and Lockheed team should deliver an IFPC high-energy laser technology demonstrator in FY22, and then four prototypes are due at the end of FY24.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.