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Northrop completes design review for US Army’s scalable 300-kilowatt laser

HELSI US Army Northrop Grumman
Photo: US Army

Northrop Grumman has revealed that it has completed the preliminary design review for a high-energy laser prototype for the Pentagon that will feature an architecture scalable to more than a megawatt.

Northrop said it received a $72 million contract in March 2021 for the effort under the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI).

The review establishes the company’s technical approach for precise, low-cost, technology for military operations, by demonstrating a high-energy laser prototype using its coherent beam combining technology.

“This is an important step in the ability to combine high-power laser beams into a single beam that can be scaled for maximum power,” said Robert Fleming, vice president and general manager, strategic space systems, Northrop Grumman. “We’re on track to demonstrate the technology, leveraging our decades of experience in the field.”

Northrop said it would test the prototype at progressively higher powers later this year to prove the coherent beam combining design.

Run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the HELSI effort is one several developments designed to keep the Army on track to deliver four operational, 300 kW-class Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) prototypes integrated on tactical vehicles to a platoon by Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, while initially demonstrating the 300 kW-class capability in FY22.

The ultimate goal of the IFPC-HEL effort is to deliver the means to defend against hostile unmanned aerial systems and rockets, artillery, and mortars.

The OSD awarded a HELSI contract to Lockheed Martin and Aculight Corporation in November 2019 to support the demonstration of the stand-alone 300kW-class HEL system. The company is one of three high energy laser producers participating in the OSD-led initiative to develop and lab test a 300 kW-class laser in FY22. The Army is the OSD designated proponent for Lockheed Martin in this initiative, while the other companies are Nutronics, Inc., sponsored by the Navy, and General Atomics, sponsored by the Air Force.