Army orders eight more laser M-SHORAD prototypes through FY-24

By Ethan Sterenfeld / November 18, 2021 at 3:29 PM

The Army plans to award Kord an other transaction agreement to produce up to eight more prototypes of a 50-kilowatt air-defense laser integrated onto a Stryker combat vehicle through fiscal year 2024, according to a Nov. 17 Army announcement.

Kord, a subsidiary of KBR, will deliver up to four more Directed Energy Mobile Short-Range Air Defense prototypes in FY-23, with four more delivered in FY-24, according to the announcement.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which manages the service’s priority directed energy programs, plans to award the OTA. The announcement did not include the expected cost for the prototypes.

“The DE M-SHORAD prototypes will incorporate design changes to reduce overall weight and increase maintainability on the system,” the announcement stated. “U.S. Army RCCTO believes Kord is the only responsible source capable to develop and deliver this prototype within the required schedule; competition of this effort is not practicable and will not meet mission fielding requirements.”

Four DE M-SHORAD prototypes are expected to be fielded to Europe in FY-22, where they will operate in the same battery as kinetic M-SHORAD systems. RCCTO’s director has said management of the DE M-SHORAD program will transition to the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space in FY-23.

A laser is expected to be a more cost-effective option for air defense against rockets and drones than kinetic systems. Rather than expensive rockets with complex supply chains, the laser just needs “cups of gasoline” to shoot down threats, a RCCTO official said in April.

Raytheon will provide the lasers for the four prototypes that will be delivered in FY-22. A new competition to build the laser is expected before the system reaches full-rate production.

The Army has made improving its air defenses a top modernization priority as it equips for large-scale combat operations. Senate authorizers asked for a report on the service’s short-range air defense modernization efforts earlier this year.