US Army awards contract to Kratos Defense to accelerate development of High Energy Laser HEL weapon

According to information released by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions on June 16, 2020, Kratos Defense & Rocket Support Services (KDRSS) Division has been awarded a $46 million Other Transaction for Prototype Agreement (pOTA) to support the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO). The new award has a three year period of performance.
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Stryker 8x8 armored vehicle fitted with High Energy Laser weapon. (Picture source Army Recognition)

The prototype project is to establish a Directed Energy (DE) Testbed to accelerate military development capability in the focus areas of High Energy Laser (HEL) and/or High Power Microwave (HPM) systems. Air and Missile Defense (AMD) military utility will be demonstrated with a concentration on countering Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) using HEL and/or HPM on ground-based and airborne platforms.

Additionally, this pOTA will perform research and experimentation related to DE test infrastructure and methodologies to improve the efficiency and accuracy of DE test programs. The project improves the ability to deploy HEL and HPM systems by providing test beds for evaluation of emerging, reduced Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) HEL and HPM systems. Work under this pOTA is anticipated to be performed at Kratos facilities and at government locations in Huntsville, AL.

Dave Carter, President of the Kratos Defense & Rocket Support Services (KDRSS) Division, said, "This recent award is another important milestone in our commitment to continue providing superior advanced technology solutions that is in keeping with our long term strategic goals supporting the U.S. Army in advancing and developing improved Directed Energy Technologies. We are very pleased the U.S. Army has chosen Kratos to serve in this capacity."

The U.S. Army is investing in Solid State Laser (SSL) technology to assess counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) and counter unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) capabilities of solid state based HEL systems, as well as other potential applications for HELs of interest to the Army.

Since 2014, when the U.S. Army began its HEL development with a 10 kW system demonstration, a 60 kW HEL was recently delivered. This system, in part because of the tremendous heat HEL generates, was mounted on a modified version of the Army’s largest truck. Ultimately the goal is to mount a 100 kW HEL on the truck.

In October 2017, General Dynamics has presented a Stryker 8x8 armored vehicle fitted with the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser 2.0, or MEHEL 2.0, designed to counter-unmanned aircraft system, or C-UAS (Counter - Unmanned Aircraft System). MEHEL is a laser testbed on a Stryker-armored fighting vehicle chassis and serves as a platform for research and development. MEHEL 2.0 is an improved version of the original MEHEL with a laser upgraded from 2kW to 5kW and other added C-UAS capabilities.