Army Selects Kord and Raytheon for Stryker Laser Weapon Contract
The selected team’s system will aid the Army’s advancement of directed energy in maneuver situations.
The U.S. Army selected Redstone, Alabama-based Kord Technologies and McKinney, Texas-based-Raytheon in a $123.9 million contract to supply three more 50-kilowatt high-energy laser energy weapon systems for three Stryker A1 vehicles, Raytheon reported September 7. The companies are delivering the combat-capable directed energy systems as part of the Army’s rapid capability acquisition effort to secure Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DEM-SHORAD capabilities. The service made the contract award based on how the companies performed at the Combat Shoot-Off event at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in July.
Kord is the prime on the contract, lead integrator and is providing the power management and cooling system. “The successful execution of the DEM-SHORAD system represents a major step forward in getting this state-of-the-art capability to our soldiers on the ground, in line with the U.S. Army’s modernization strategy for air and missile defense,” KBR Government Solutions President Byron Bright said in a September 8 statement. “In under two years, the program has rapidly progressed from design to integration and now performing in an operational environment, which is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Meanwhile, Raytheon will provide the 50-kW class high-energy laser, a beam director, an electro-optical/infrared target acquisition and tracking system, and a Ku720 multi-mission radar. The addition of the Ku720 multi-mission, advanced electronically scanned array, persistent 360-degree radar—a scaled down, highly-mobile version of Raytheon’s Ku-Band Radio Frequency System—provides sensing capabilities for the emerging threats and at a greater distance than other battlefield sensors.
“The Stryker isn't just the laser,” explained Evan Hunt, director, High Energy Lasers and Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, Raytheon Intelligence and Space, in a call with SIGNAL Magazine. “The Stryker that we've developed is a laser weapon. It's a radar capable of tracking multiple threats at long range, and it is also a sensor asset. You have multiple electro-optical infrared sensors on the Stryker, so you can actually zoom in and look at different targets. And so, that integrated power and thermal solution is servicing a laser, but it is also servicing a radar and servicing multiple electro-optical infrared sensors, which is going to give the warfighter an unprecedented level of situational awareness.”
The production and integration of the three new systems by the end of fiscal year 2022 builds on the success of the team’s first 50-kW high-energy laser prototype system integrated on a Stryker through an other transaction authority, or OTA, agreement with the Army over the last year and a half.
After Raytheon delivered the prototype laser and subsystems to Kord under the OTA, and integration onto the vehicle was completed in late spring, the team took the vehicle to a different Army range for pre-testing before the Combat Shoot-Off at Fort Sill.
Soldiers and officials from the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team (AMD CFT), the Fires Center of Excellence and the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command all participated in the Fort Sill event. Soldiers ran the Stryker laser weapon system prototype through several battlefield scenarios. It represented the first time that the Army engaged such a powerful laser weapon on a key maneuver vehicle.
The warfighters successfully operated the system after some initial training and were able to effectively track, identify and engage a variety of targets, the team confirmed. The contractors did not know what the Army’s scenarios would be before the event, nor could they help the soldiers during the engagement.
“Soldier-centered design throughout the prototyping effort is only the start,” Bright noted. “The CSO [Combat Shoot-Off] demonstrated that soldiers were able to rapidly learn how to operate the system and quickly demonstrate proficiency in target acquisition, aim point selection and engagements thanks to state-of-the-art training utilizing immersive technology for the modern soldier.”
In addition, the warfighters provided feedback about the prototype. The three new systems will be operationally identical to the first, but with a slightly different aesthetical design. “The only thing that will change with the next three is that they will look slicker,” Hunt shared. “They will be the same in operation. They will have the same technical architecture. With the first system, you'll see the radar has a mast and in the next three, the radar will be more evenly distributed on the vehicle, so that it can fit into more mobile environments.
“The DEM-SHORAD is actually meant to be operated from within the vehicle and that means it also needs a radar on the vehicle,” Hunt continued. “This was an in-depth vehicle integration for maneuverable purpose, meaning [the Stryker] would be able to be loaded onto airplanes and transit through tunnels in relevant theaters, and that also meant that we had to leave real space for crew members to ingress and egress and sit comfortably in the vehicle.”
And as a truly integrated weapon system in the Stryker, the high-energy laser recharges off the vehicle’s power supply platform, enabling a “deep” magazine. The energy supply also is robust enough to power the Ku-720 radar and other systems. “It can operate standalone,” he noted. “It doesn't need to plug into an off-board radar. It doesn't need to plug into outside power, and it's not operated remotely.”
Those factors, the low cost-per-kill shot and speed-of-light delivery from the silent, invisible, powerful high-energy laser beam make the weapon a considerable defense against UAV and RAM threats.
“What is so great about the system it that it gives the warfighter lots of options,” Hunt stated. “With a traditional system, all you see is a radar track and you have to fire a missile or a gun at a radar track. You just don't have the same situational awareness and the same level of precision. [With the DEM-SHORAD system] you have a radar track, you can then put eyes on with a video camera, and you can choose the second you want to fire the beam. You can watch and get real-time battle damage assessment as you're firing the beam. You can then confirm you're getting the effect you want. You can watch the threat go down and then you can turn the beam off the second you want to turn the beam off. Or you can use the system as just a sensor, scan the horizon and positively identify other potential threats.”