Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Army to develop and supply up to four 300 kW-class laser weapon systems. The systems will be part of the U.S. Army's Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) prototype initiative, a program designed to provide a more effective defense against a range of threats including unmanned aerial systems, rocket fire, artillery, and both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.
Rick Cordaro, vice president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Weapons, commented on the contract, stating, "Winning the IFPC-HEL prototype contract is the result of several years of complex program evolution, strategic investments and partnership with the Army on this program. Our mature directed energy technology enables Lockheed Martin to provide speed, agility, and 21st Century Security solutions to the Army."
The contract specifics indicate that Lockheed Martin will supply the Army with two initial 300 kW-class IFPC-HEL prototypes. There is also an option for the procurement of two additional units of the same class if needed.
Milestones in IFPC-HEL Development
Lockheed Martin's involvement in high-energy laser technologies is not new and dates back several years. In 2019, the company played a key role in transitioning from the 100 kW-class High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) to the more potent 300 kW-class IFPC-HEL demonstrator. The transition marked a threefold increase in energy output, paving the way for more effective and versatile applications in defense systems.
In 2020, the Department of Defense awarded Lockheed Martin another contract, this time for the development of a compact, ruggedized 300 kW-class laser system. This underlined the Department's increasing reliance on Lockheed Martin's expertise in high-energy laser technologies for its defense initiatives.
Adding to these milestones, in August 2022, Lockheed Martin delivered the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI) laser, which was specifically designed for integration into the IFPC-HEL prototype program. At that point in time, it was considered the most powerful solid-state directed energy technology delivered.
The IFPC-HEL system aims to work in concert with other defense mechanisms to offer a layered protection strategy. The laser systems are expected to mitigate risks from a variety of threats, thereby providing a flexible defense apparatus for the U.S. Army.
The 300 kW-class laser systems stand at the intersection of science and practical military application. They embody Lockheed Martin's continued commitment to innovating defense technologies that can adapt to the dynamic threats of modern warfare. As indicated by the option for additional units, the program might be scaled up, depending on its success in the prototype phase.
By leveraging its mature directed energy technology, Lockheed Martin aims to provide rapid and agile solutions to the Army. The contract win underlines the company's role as a pivotal player in the advancement of next-generation military technology.
This award comes as a significant milestone in the U.S. Army's effort to modernize its defense capabilities and represents a tangible advancement in the field of directed energy systems.