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General Atomics, Boeing partner to build laser defense system

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS), acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight. The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. (Keith Lewis/Air Force Research Laboratory/DVIDS)

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems and Boeing are partnering to develop a high-energy laser for air and missile defense. The 100 kW to 250 kW-class High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon system :combines both companies’ expertise in directed energy to build a best-in-class HEL solution capable of delivering superior, combat-ready protection for the warfighter on an accelerated timeline,” GA announced recently.

The High Energy Base weapon system will combine GA-EMS’ gain laser technology, battery systems and thermal management with Boeing’s beam director and precision acquisition, tracking and pointing software. The companies hope to develop a system for a variety of mobile ground, sea and air-based platforms.

“GA-EMS has made significant advancements in developing and demonstrating highly scalable laser technologies to facilitate high output power in smaller, lighter weight packages,” said Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “We look forward to working with Boeing to deliver a laser weapon system with capabilities designed to meet current operational requirements, while providing the flexibility and adaptability to suit emerging platform requirements supporting missions across a multi-domain battlespace.”

According to Defense News, GA and Boeing did not specify whether the system is being built with a particular acquisition program in mind. However, the power levels the companies hope to achieve with their laser coincides with what the Army is aiming for in its High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator program.

“The Army has already tapped Dynetics and Lockheed Martin to build the initial HEL TVD demonstrator — a 100-kilowatt-class laser that will be integrated with a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles platform — but the service ultimately hopes to develop 250- to 300-kilowatt-class directed-energy weapons for future requirements,” Defense News reported.

The HEL-TVD is the Army’s entry with the Navy and Air Force, who also ae developing lasers. At the end of fiscal yea 2022, the defense department and armed services will determine which of the three systems they prefer. The Army will then build four vehicle prototypes to be delivered in fiscal year 24.

General Atomics and Boeing earlier announced they were working together on the Missile Defense Agency’s Next Generation Interceptor program, and will compete with Lockheed Martin and a Northrop Grumman-Raytheon Technologies team to develop and build the new ballistic missile interceptor.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems in September announced it was investing $39.5 million and adding 125 workers to its facility in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park. It is the company’s 12th expansion in 15 years and fifth time since 2013. GA has invested $70 in the sprawling facility since 2018.


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