During a webinar hosted by Defense News on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the US Army’s director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition, said a platoon of Strykers would be fitted with 50-kilowatt lasers in the coming fiscal year.
The modified Strykers have been dubbed Interim Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD), one of several systems being tested to fill the Pentagon’s short-range, anti-air defense gap. As Sputnik reported, Strykers armed with Stinger missiles and 30-millimeter autocannons are set to be tested in this role in live-fire drills in New Mexico later this month.
The Army signed a deal last August with Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to put 50-kilowatt lasers on four Stryker vehicles by 2022 at a cost of some $203 million. According to Northrop, the directed energy weapons will serve “as an effective complement to kinetic capabilities in countering rockets, artillery and mortars; unmanned aircraft systems; and other aerial threats.”
Since at least 2014, the Army has been chasing the idea of a drone-killing laser mounted on a wheeled vehicle. Raytheon was given $11 million that year to develop a 25-kilowatt laser for a Humvee, and the following year, the Army tested Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser, mounted on a large truck.
Military.com noted the two lasers built by the firms will engage in a “competitive shoot-off,” with the winning company getting to mount its weapon on the Strykers.