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US Navy tweaks destroyer-based laser effort

8th May 2019 - 12:00 GMT | by Marc Selinger in Washington, DC


Lockheed Martin is moving ahead with developing a laser weapon system for the US Navy but in a different sequence than originally planned, according to a company official. 

Instead of building two units – one for land-based testing, the other for installation on a ship – Lockheed Martin will produce a single system that will be tested on land first, then moved to a destroyer. 

‘We’re using the one system to do both,’ said Brendan Scanlon, Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS programme director. ‘We’re doing things [in] a little more serial manner.' 

Scanlon attributed the change to reductions in how much money the navy has available each year for the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system. Under a new ‘funding profile,’ the programme will spend its budget over a longer period of time, and HELIOS will be delivered to a destroyer in 2021, a year later than previously scheduled. 

Despite the revisions, HELIOS is making significant progress, Scanlon told reporters on 1 May. The system underwent a preliminary design review in March, and Lockheed Martin has begun building subsystems. A critical design review is slated for the first quarter of 2020, and the company expects to finish integrating HELIOS in mid-2020. 

HELIOS will have three main features: a high-energy fiber laser to counter unmanned aircraft and small boats; sensors to conduct long-range surveillance; and a dazzler to blind an adversary drone’s surveillance sensors. The navy has said that the high-energy laser will have a power level of at least 60 kW. 

When installed on an Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA destroyer, HELIOS will be integrated with the ship’s Aegis combat system so they can share information with each other. 

‘All the sensors that are onboard the ship … will provide cues to our laser weapon system,’ Scanlon explained. 

The navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $150 million contract for HELIOS in January 2018. The service is also pursuing several other laser weapon efforts, including a ‘low-power’ laser that it intends to begin fielding on ships this year to blind drones. 

‘Laser weapon systems are no longer five years away,’ Scanlon said. ‘They’re here now.’

Marc Selinger


Marc Selinger

Marc is a freelance contributor to Shephard Media's news streams, with decades of experience writing …

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