Military-portal.com – The U.S. Army is on track to select a durable, high-tech laser weapon system that will offer lethal power against unmanned aircraft (UAS) and rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) systems.
According to a recent service news release, as a leader in new and new technologies, the Army is deploying next-generation capabilities to advance its Multi-Domain Operations and create a standoff.
Nothing is clearer than with Directed Energy, where in 24 months, the Army harnessed the promise of lasers, integrated them into the platform, and produced the first combat-capable prototype.
Offering lethal power to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM), laser weapons are now enhancing the Army’s air and missile defense capabilities while reducing the total lifecycle cost of the system through reduced logistical demand.
This summer, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), along with the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, the Fire Excellence Center, and the U.S. Army’s Test and Evaluation Command, brought the laser-equipped Stryker to Fort Sill, Okla.
as part of short-range air defense (DE M-SHORAD) firefighting with directed energy maneuvers. Intended to help protect the Division and Combat Team Brigade from UAS and RAM threats, the RCCTO delivered a platoon of four laser-equipped Strykers in Fiscal Year 2022.
“This is the first laser combat application for maneuver elements in the Army,” said LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, which includes the RCCTO. “The technology we have today is ready. This is the gateway to the future.”
In Combat Shoot-Off, Stryker faces a number of realistic scenarios designed to establish, for the first time in the Army, desirable characteristics for future DE M-SHORAD systems.
“It’s an unbeatable effort,” said COL G. Scott McLeod, RCCTO program manager for DE M-SHORAD. “We are building and providing new capabilities. It’s not a modification or an upgrade. It took only 24 months for a joint government and industry team to design, integrate, and prepare it to perform in an operational environment.”
The DE M-SHORAD prototype effort is part of the Army’s larger modernization strategy for air and missile defense. Combat Shoot-Off, which ends at the end of July, trains Soldiers to operate new defense weapons, using advanced immersive technology to quickly familiarize them with the DE M-SHORAD system. Within a few days, they operated the system, demonstrating proficiency in target acquisition, goal point selection, and engagement.
The army-centered design, embedded throughout the prototype-making effort, came up in a unique way. For example, when it comes time to practice, the Soldier operating the system suggests using a commercial game controller as an upgrade of the standard controller. They used three-dimensional models of Strykers on handheld devices so they could run through the system virtually in x-ray mode to dissect parts of them. The instructions also offer online access to system training manuals, measurements and dimensions, and interactive modules.
Firefighting culminates with soldiers executing a series of sketches designed to mimic realistic threats and combat scenarios. The DE M-SHORAD weapon system demonstrates the design characteristics and performance criteria set for the program, which is a major step in the timely completion of the prototype for launch in the FY22.
“This event marks an important milestone and is a great example of rapid prototyping,” said Dr. Craig Robin, deputy director of the RCCTO’s DE Project Office. “For the first time, we have lasers capable of fighting in a range that works against realistic threats. We know this won’t be perfect, but we will continue to work with the Warriors to incorporate their feedback and lessons from this assessment into the design to help inform future directional energy systems.”
To address the support and infrastructure around prototype lasers, the RCCTO uses a unique stakeholder forum known as the Octagon. This integrated stakeholder group includes representatives from all aspects of Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materials, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy. The group works in parallel with prototype development, ensuring the right elements are ready when the prototype is delivered.
“It’s a prototype and we’ll learn from this,” Thurgood said. “We need this to do two things: design it so it’s safe enough to give to soldiers and make sure it hits the targets it needs. The science project in this technology has ended. It’s time to give our Soldiers this first operational capability.”