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US Air Force awards Raytheon USD15.5 million contract to upgrade high-energy laser counter UAS system

Raytheon Technologies reports a USD15.5 million contract from the US Air Force to supply an upgraded version of its High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) for military use, awarded at the end of March . A prototype has been under development since 2019 following the receipt of a USD23.8 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop two prototypes. Later that year the company secured another USD13.1 million for a third prototype.

HELWS uses directed energy to destroy small unmanned aerial systems. The weapon is designed to defeat a drone within three kilometers by keeping its beam focused on the threat for five consecutive seconds. Operators control the weapon with a game-style controller and a laptop. The Air Force hopes directed-energy weapons like HELWS can help defend its bases from small drone threats.

Raytheon has delivered three prototypes to the Air Force, with the first deployed overseas for testing in early 2020 and the second deployed later that year.

“With thousands of operation hours under its belt, our HELWS system has proven its mettle,” Annabel Flores, vice president of electronic warfare systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, said in a March 31 statement. “Now we have the opportunity to build another, more robust laser system for the Air Force’s premier organization and take a key step toward defining an air base air defense program of record.”

According to a report by C4ISRnet, HELWS prototypes are attached to off-road vehicles. Under the latest USD15.5 million contract the system will be delivered unmounted on pallets for potential use with different platforms.

This latest contract was issued by the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, which will test HELWS to define requirements for future counter-drone production programs and make a recommendation to a procurement authority. Raytheon will support Air Force field assessments and help train operators.

(Image: Raytheon Intelligence & Space)

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