The U.S. Army is getting closer to mounting lasers on vehicles for protection against incoming enemy rocket, artillery and mortar fire.
The Army awarded Raytheon Company a contract worth up to $10 million to develop a "100 [Kilowatt] class laser weapon system preliminary design for integration onboard the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles," or FMTV, according to a July 2 press release from Raytheon.
The High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstration program is part of the Army's Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 initiative.
Last year, the Army tested five- and 10-Kilowatt lasers, but 50- and 100-Kilowatt lasers will provide more lethality to engage targets at longer ranges, Army officials say.
"The beauty of this system is that it's self-contained," Roy Azevedo, vice president of Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Systems at Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business unit, said in the release. "Multi-spectral targeting sensors, fiber-combined lasers, power and thermal sub-systems are incorporated in a single package. This system is being designed to knock out rockets, artillery or mortar fire, or small drones."
In the next phase of the program, the Army will award a system development and demonstration contract valued at $130 million to a company to build and integrate a weapon system on the FMTV, according to the release.
The contract award is expected in 2019, the release states.
Over the past decade, the Defense Department has shown great interest in solid-state laser technology, which can be used to direct high levels of heat energy toward targets.
The directed energy can strike a specific spot on enemy drones or missiles and cause several failures at once. Once perfected, the technology could provide a low-cost alternative to weapon systems that require expensive ammunition, military officials say.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.