US Army reviews High Energy Laser (HEL) training and demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground

A US Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office reports recent completion of a demonstration and training event of a 10kW-class prototype laser weapon system. Known as the Palletized-High Energy Laser (P-HEL), the prototype weapon system is part of an emerging industry of innovative technologies that the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), in support of the Joint Counter small Unmanned Aircraft System Office (JCO), is accelerating.

This emerging capability was demonstrated in an operationally relevant environment at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), Arizona and will be followed by deployment of the system for further evaluation and operational use, says the report.

The prime contractor, SAIC is responsible for integrating the prototype C-sUAS 10kW-class HEL weapon system. Liteye Systems and Anduril Industries are providing external sensors, Rocky Research is providing the thermal control and power generation system and BlueHalo is providing the laser system. The 20kW-class HEL is being developed by Radiance Technologies.

“There’s no doubt lasers will be on the future large scale ground combat battlefield so it’s great to see these initial prototypes to gain understanding of its capabilities and think through where these capabilities will fit into our organizations, the impact on how we fight, and understand how we need to adjust our doctrine,” said MG Ken Kamper, Commanding General of the Fires Center of Excellence. “The laser, as part of a necessary layered set of capabilities against threat unmanned aircraft systems, has tremendous potential.”

The demonstration took place from April 25-29 with Soldiers on-the-ground to successfully execute the capability to detect, acquire, track, and engage targets in a realistic combat scenario. The P-HEL engaged rotary and fixed wing UAS targets with multiple challenging vignettes that required the Soldiers to react to different flight scenarios. Ultimately, every Soldier killed at least one target. Eighteen total targets were killed over the entire demonstration. The RCCTO developed the P-HEL prototype weapon system in a short 10-month period, from contract award to this demonstration at YPG. Next, this effort will lead to the development of a 20kW-class P-HEL prototype weapon system.

“Our objective at Yuma was to demonstrate not only the capability to kill targets, but to validate that we can train Soldiers in a short duration, and do it anywhere,” said LTC Adam Miller, Product Manager for the RCCTO Directed Energy C-sUAS office, who leads the P-HEL effort. “The system and training package are capable of deploying to austere environments in support of operational needs.

“The P-HEL capability is a big milestone for the Army and for the joint forces for many reasons,” LTC Miller said. “In just two weeks, they’ve learned the technicalities of a new system and have become proficient enough to kill targets.”

A second 20kW-class P-HEL prototype demonstration is planned for September 2022.

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