The Army is going all in on a high-powered laser weapon

Military Tech

A 5 kilowatt (kW) laser integrated on a Stryker participated in the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Fort Sill, April 5, 2017. The Army is now accelerating the rapid prototyping and fielding of 50 kW-class lasers on a platoon of Strykers

(U.S. Army/C. Todd Lopez)

After years of testing out a low-energy Stryker-mounted directed energy system, the Army is formally pushing for a combat-ready laser weapon to blast enemy drones and ordnance out of the sky in the next four years.

The Army is officially accelerating the prototyping and fielding of four Stryker vehicles outfitted with 50 kW-class laser weapons by fiscal year 2022, the service announced on July 26, a ten-fold increase over the 5 kW-class system that artillery soldiers have been testing in Germany since early 2018.


The new laser prototype, know as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), is "intended to protect maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), rotary- wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery and mortar (RAM)" as part of the Army's ongoing development of its Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) capabilities, the service said.

"The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield," saidLt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, said in a statement. "The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army's modernization plan. This is no longer a research effort or a demonstration effort. It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in soldiers' hands."

The news isn't a complete surprise: Thurgood had previously stated in June that the service was looking to outfit a battery of Stryker vehicles with a 50 kW-class system by 2021 and deliver them to U.S troops by the following year.

But in late July, the Army made the effort official with a $203 million contract to Alabama-based Kord Technologies to deliver a 50 kW-class MMHEL laser prototype to the service by some time in 2022, IHS Jane's reports, with plans to purchase an additional three laser-equipped Stryker vehicles should the Kord prototype prove satisfactory.

In addition, both Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are competing to subcontract with Kord on the actual production of the prototype laser system, with integration support from Stryker manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems.

"Under the terms of the contract, the two laser vendors have approximately one year to produce the required laser subsystems, integrate them onto the Stryker platform, and complete a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration against various threats," according to the Army.

That award could potentially swell to $490 million for those initial four Stryker prototypes.

The Army isn't stopping at 50 kW, though: the service is now pursuing a prototype 100 kW-class High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) laser system designed not just to mount on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles platform, but inform other directed energy efforts across the U.S. armed forces.

"Under the new directed energy strategy, the Army is leveraging progress made in that effort in order to merge the HEL-TVD with similar technologies in development by the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense," the service said in a release, adding that this partnership "will allow the services to achieve a higher power system, of approximately 250-300 kW-class, that can protect sites from RAM and UAS as well as more stressing threats."

Anyway, mark your calendars: while it's unclear which lucky soldiers will get their hands on the Army's first high-powered laser weapon first, 2022 is starting to look like a good year for a laser party:

I will apologize for nothing.

Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less
Joshua Kaleb Watson (Facebook via Business Insider)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.

Read More Show Less
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Courtesy photo)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Read More Show Less
Saudi air force Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani (NBC News)

The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hold folded flags before military funeral honors. (U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.

Read More Show Less