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Army Special Forces Wants Lasers to Shoot Down Drones

The Army wants to protect Special Forces operators from unmanned aerial systems—better known as drones—by shooting them out of the sky with high-energy weapons—better known as lasers.

The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office added a new section to its broad agency announcement vehicle for cutting-edge technologies, putting out a call under “Counter Unmanned Aerial System High Energy Laster,” or C-sUAS HEL.

“The primary opportunity and purpose of this effort is to integrate a government owned High Energy Laser subsystem with a power and thermal subsystem and sensor package to demonstrate increased lethality in negating sUAS,” the call states.

Using lasers—or even laser pointers—to take down drones is not a new idea, and the U.S. military has been working on high-energy laser systems for years. This latest effort would apply existing military research to countering small drones and develop a single system that could be deployed by Special Forces.

Chosen vendors will be given two Army-owned “high energy laser weapons systems and two surveillance radar systems” to develop into working counter-drone systems, including “designing, integrating, prototyping and delivering” working systems.

The C-sUAS HEL system must meet five criteria to be viable:

  • Detect and characterize Class 1 and 2 UAS threats at standoff ranges.
  • Possess hard-kill capability against Class 1 and 2 unmanned aerial systems using a high energy laser at standoff ranges with high reliability. 
  • Be agnostic towards laser technology, have a modular open system design, and interface with Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control. 
  • Possess the capability to defend fixed and semi fixed sites. 
  • Reach Technology Readiness Level 7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level 5 when demonstrated as a prototype at the end of this effort.

While the program cannot guarantee future contracts or acquisitions, the plan is to continue this effort, if successful, with follow-on production agreements.

“It is not fully known at this time what the quantities or dollar values will be, or which exact program office or agency may produce follow-on production,” the call states. “However, it is fully expected that the hardware/software will be used in follow-on production agreements or contracts by one or more agencies and/or program offices.”

White papers should be submitted through the Vulcan platform by 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

The new call for white papers comes shortly after the Pentagon released its first counter sUAS strategy.

source: NextGov