HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Army is trying to integrate a 20-kilowatt laser onto its GM Defense-made Infantry Squad Vehicle that could potentially destroy drone threats, according to both the service’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and the company performing the integration work.

The program, dubbed Army Multipurpose High Energy Laser, or AMP-HEL, would serve as a means to protect infantry brigade combat teams from small drones, L. Neil Thurgood, the tech office’s director, said Aug. 10 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

SAIC is the lead integrator per an other transaction authority agreement that allows for rapid prototyping over a five-year period, according to Greg Fortier, the company’s vice president of fires, aviation and missile defense. The company is also involved in integrating a palletized high-energy laser capable of defeating small drones, he added.

That palletized laser system was developed in conjunction with the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office, and it has already been demonstrated and deployed, Jeannie Sommer, deputy director of the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, said at the symposium.

That office is also preparing to field its first directed-energy short-range air defense systems — a 50-kilowatt laser mounted on a Stryker combat vehicle — by the end of the fiscal year, Sommer added.

The office is also preparing to deliver the first prototypes of the Army’s Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser system, which features a truck-mounted, 300-kilowatt laser, by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024.

Dynetics, a Leidos company, is the integrator for the IFPC-HEL effort. Major test events are expected for the system later this year.

The Army’s pursuit to counter small drones is heating up through directed-energy solutions, among other means, including a new development: The service’s Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team has taken on an effort to develop a capability that can detect, track and defeat small drones, Col. Pat Costello, the team’s new director, said on a panel at the symposium.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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