Air Force looking into DE weapon prototypes for counter-cruise missile experiment

By Sara Sirota / August 30, 2019 at 2:40 PM

The Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office is exploring fieldable prototypes of directed-energy weapon systems that can participate in an anticipated demonstration for counter-cruise missile airbase defense.

The office released a notice on Federal Business Opportunities today, requesting information from the Pentagon, other government agencies and industry on high-energy lasers or high-powered microwaves that are ready for experimentation no later than the middle or end of fiscal year 2020.

The effort reflects the Air Force’s initiative to operationalize DE weapons for airbase defense under a flight plan that was signed by the service’s leadership in May 2017. Michael Jirjis, chief of the DE Weapons Experimentation Campaign at the Air Force Research Lab, is managing the project.

In addition to assessing the maturity of DE technology, the expected test has learning objectives related to doctrine, organization, training and policy for the counter-cruise missile mission.

The SDPE notice says DE weapons “will be part of a larger order of battle with kinetic systems structured to protect those sanctuaries. Exploring the potential synergy of DE and [kinetic energy] systems for this mission is another key element of this experiment.”

The Air Force is particularly interested in platforms that can integrate with existing missile defense technology, including target acquisition radars, target engagement radars and command-and-control network architectures. It is also looking for weapons designed to be modular and modified to support advancements, alternative architectures, fixed and mobile platform basing options and operate in varying environments.

“Additionally, systems that demonstrate low life cycle costs, high reliability, and minimal support equipment requirements are highly encouraged to respond,” the notice says.

SDPE gives some indication as to the desired acquisition amount and fielding schedule, requesting respondents describe how “production quantities/lot buys could be structured for up to 100 DEW systems to be delivered within two years (desired) – four (4) years (maximum) from delivery of first system.”

In addition to counter-cruise missile defense, Jirjis’s campaign is testing DE weapons to counter unmanned aerial system threats to airbases. He will hold an experiment this fall to determine whether off-the-shelf technology is ready for acquisition.