The Army awarded a $130 million contract to the Dynetics-Lockheed team to build the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) laser system.
Under the program, Dynetics — the prime contractor — will integrate the laser system onto the Family of Medium-Tactical Vehicles, with the effort culminating in a test of the entire system in 2022 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The Army began its effort to get a more powerful laser onto a vehicle less bulky than a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in 2016.
The HEL TVD program is a science and technology demonstration program that will work toward incorporating a laser into the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 that aims to defend against rockets, artillery and mortars as well as cruise missiles and drones.
Laser weapons for platforms like IFPC Inc. 2 are being hotly pursued because regular interceptors quickly run out and are expensive. A laser weapon will have a much larger number of shots depending on power availability and would be far less expensive to fire at a threat than a missile.
“High energy laser weapons have been a system that the United States has wanted to add into their defense portfolio since the invention of the laser. We are glad to be selected to build this new and safe weapon system that will provide a simple, yet cost-effective approach in theater,” Ronnie Chronister, Dynetics senior vice president of contracts, said in a March 15 company statement.
Lockheed Martin will supply the laser subsystem as well as other key elements, and will serve as the lead systems integrator.
The spectral beam-combined fiber laser subsystem that Lockheed is developing for the program uses the company’s experience gained from the Army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative program as well as the “Athena” and “Aladin” laser programs, among other efforts within the Air Force and the Navy.
Rolls-Royce will supply its newly unveiled integrated power and thermal management system designed optimally to power a 100-kilowatt-class laser weapon.
The system uses the company’s well-known M250 helicopter engine — that was used in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter and is also found in the Little Bird and the AH-6i helicopters — which allows the system to generate roughly 300 kilowatts of electrical power and 200 kilowatts of thermal management capacity, according to Mark Wilson, the chief operating officer at Rolls-Royce’s LibertyWorks division. But the system is also considered hybrid, as it combines a battery with the engine.
Having already completed a preliminary design review, the Dynetics team will move to the critical design review “as soon as possible,” the company statement notes. The critical design review phase is intended to finalize the design before building.
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.