WASHINGTON — Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia-based consulting firm, is establishing a new high-energy laser business that builds on internal company investments in directed-energy technology in recent years.
The business unit, called HELworks, is headquartered in Fredericksburg, Va., with a second facility in Knoxville, Tenn., the firm announced Oct. 10.
Booz Allen has a nearly 30-year history of working on directed energy projects – from providing technology expertise for high-energy laser programs to developing government prototypes for HEL and high-power microwave systems. Joe Shepherd, the chief executive of HELworks, told C4ISRNET in an Oct. 10 interview at the Association of the U.S. Army conference that over the last five years, the firm has focused more internal investment on developing its own high-energy laser capabilities.
Directed-energy, which includes high-energy lasers, has been a nascent market for DoD for many years, but the technology is a growing priority for the Pentagon. Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu included directed energy on a list of 14 critical and emerging technologies released in February.
Shepherd said increasing DoD interest is part of the incentive for moving forward with HELworks at this time.
“The market is showing the promise and the trends necessary, and our tech maturation internally is to a point that now we have an addressable market with our capability,” he said.
With the announcement of the new business unit, Booz Allen also unveiled three HELworks product lines that have been the focus of the company’s recent internal research and development investment. The first, a High Energy Laser Mission Equipment Package, is both kinetic and non-kinetic and designed for the Army’s Stryker armored vehicle. HEL MEP is small and lightweight and can be attached to an existing Short Range Air Defense system or integrated with another platform.
HEL MEP is scheduled to move through initial field testing this fall, in time to participate in an Army demonstration in December at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Shepherd said.
The mission equipment package is powered by HELworks’ second product line, LightEngine, which Shepherd described as the “common core foundation” to a number of laser weapon systems.
“It has applicability to nearly any platform in any laser weapon system,” he said. “It’s agnostic to the beam director that puts light on the target, for example, and it’s agnostic to the platform that it would fit in.”
HELworks’ third product line, the Modular Compact High Energy Laser, offers a small, portable package that can be scaled for a range of design options. According to a company fact sheet, the system can be packed in 10 boxes that would fit on a mid-sized pickup truck.
The company has developed, field tested and delivered operational prototypes of MCHEL.
“This is really the first time we’ve come out openly and talked about the fact that we’ve not only designed, developed and built a prototype like this under IRAD, but we’ve also delivered one to the U.S. government,” he said.
Shepherd declined to disclose the first customer for MCHEL.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.