Lockheed Martin to beef up its already potent 300 kW HELSI laser for the Pentagon

Under a new contract, Lockheed Martin has been commissioned to improve on its already potent 300 kW HELSI laser technology and bring it up to 500 kW.
Christopher McFadden
Ground laser weapon system.
Ground laser weapon system.

Lockheed Martin  

Lockheed Martin has been commissioned by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, OUSD (R&E), to deliver the most powerful laser it has ever developed.

At 500 kW, the new laser will dwarf its existing 300 kW class and form the second phase of the DoD's High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI).

For reference, the HELSI will aid the US Army's larger Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) initiative. This program aims to protect immobile and partially immobile locations from attacks by rockets, artillery, mortars, unmanned aerial systems, and rotary and fixed-wing threats.

500 kW laser

The IFPC-HEL program will incorporate high-energy laser technology into current defense systems, allowing for quick and accurate targeting of potential threats. This will enhance the combat capabilities of the armed forces by providing powerful lasers and greater fighting strength. The US Army intends to deploy as many as four operational 300 kW-class IFPC-HEL prototypes in tactical military vehicles by 2024.

HELSI's second phase aims to enhance the laser's power output while maintaining exceptional beam quality and maximizing efficiency, compactness, weight, and volume for continuous-wave high-energy laser sources. Successfully demonstrating this capability will lower the DoD's risk when procuring and deploying high-powered laser weapon systems across all six branches of the military.

“OUSD (R&E) has invested [in maturing] high energy lasers in support of America’s warfighters.  At the same time, Lockheed Martin has invested in our production infrastructure in anticipation of the Department of Defense’s demand for laser weapons that have additional layers of protection with deep magazines, low cost per engagement, high speed of light delivery, and high precision response reducing logistics requirements,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president of Mission Systems & Weapons at Lockheed Martin.

“The 500-kW laser will incorporate our successes from the 300-kW system and lessons learned from legacy programs to prove further the capability to defend against a range of threats," he added.

"Lockheed Martin is a proven weapon system integrator and has invested in demonstrating the maturity of its directed energy technology and increasing its production capacity to build laser weapon systems at scale. This OUSD (R&E) HELSI milestone exemplifies Lockheed Martin’s commitment to develop advanced technologies that provide speed and agility to Joint All-Domain Operations," Lockheed Martin said in a press release.

Most powerful laser

"The 500 kW-class laser will be tactically configured, utilize Lockheed Martin’s proven spectral beam combined architecture to support military platforms, and incorporate Department of Defense Modular Open System Approach standards to ensure the systems interoperability and multi-mission integration," explained Lockheed Martin.

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