By JOHN KELLER
HUNTSVILLE, Ala.–U.S. military laser weapons researchers are asking two major U.S. defense contractors to develop electrically driven high-power laser technology for future generations of laser weapon systems. The contracts call for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to capitalize on high-energy laser technology developed during the past five years to demonstrate 25-kilowatt military lasers, and design ruggedized military laser weapon subsystems at powers as strong as 100 kilowatts.
The U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., is awarding a $14.7 million contract to the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors (MS2) Integrated Defense Technologies segment in Bothell, Wash., and a $9.1 million contract to the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif., for the Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) program.
Army Space Missile Defense Command is awarding the contracts also on behalf of the DOD High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL JTO), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
DOD researchers want Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to develop an efficient highpower electrically driven laser system suitable for a scalable, ruggedized militarily laser module packaged for ground-, sea-, or air based military applications. Ultimately, experts at the two companies will build laboratory-grade lasers with performance traceable to weapon system applications.
DOD researchers want the companies to develop high-power, weapons-grade lasers with better than 30 percent efficiency, with beams near diffraction limited quality, with power greater than 25 kilowatts, with run times that meet military mission requirements.
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will demonstrate and test the lasers they develop at the DOD High-Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.