As 2021 approaches, Army testers are in the final stages of plans for a shoot-off event to select a maker for the service's first laser-equipped Stryker vehicles.
Teams from Northrop Grumman and Raytheon will take their Stryker vehicle prototype, equipped with a 50-kilowatt laser, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma this spring to face multiple target scenarios designed the test the limits of each prototype's ability to defeat enemy unmanned aircraft systems, enemy rockets, artillery and mortars and other aerial threats, according to a Dec. 21 Army release.
After the shoot-off, one of the laser-equipped Stryker designs will be manufactured to equip the Army with an initial operating capability of four Stryker Directed Energy-Mobile Short-Range Air Defense (DE-M-SHORAD) systems by fiscal year 2022.
During the shoot-off, the two Stryker laser systems will face a series of 12 target vignettes that will increase in difficulty and likely feature a mix of drones and incoming enemy rockets, artillery and mortars.
"The vignettes are important because our intent is to stress the systems to failure," Craig Robin, deputy director of the Directed Energy Project Office within the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO). "So, we are not assuming they will pass everything, we are purposely creating a series of vignettes with increased complexity."
The Army selected Northrop and Raytheon in July 2019 to develop competing prototypes of 50-kilowatt laser-equipped Strykers as part of a $203 million deal that includes Kord Technologies as the prime contractor. Army program officials are now supporting both comanies as they assemble components of the laser-equipped Strykers at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
"This is an exciting stage of the program, as we're starting to put the laser systems together," Col. G. Scott McLeod, program manager for the effort at RCCTO, said in the release. "Soon we'll begin performing internal evaluations of the systems here at Redstone as part of the walk-up to the combat shoot-off in a few months. We're looking forward to getting the vehicles fully integrated and ready to go out to the range."
The shoot-off is designed to establish a performance baseline for 50-kilowatt class laser systems and will help Army program officials write future requirements for the DE-M-SHORAD, McLeod said.
Once fielded, the laser-armed Strykers will protect brigade combat teams alongside kinetic M-SHORADs, which will be equipped with more conventional air defense weapons.
In October, the Army awarded a $1.2 billion contract to General Dynamics Land Systems for Stryker combat vehicles equipped with Raytheon Stinger missiles. General Dynamics has partnered with Leonardo DRS and Raytheon on the deal, which has an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2025.
Under the contract, GDLS -- the company that manufactures Stryker vehicles for the Army -- will produce, test and deliver 28 Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) Strykers to the Army in an initial order worth approximately $200 million.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.