The Navy and Missile Defense Agency are leveraging prototyping programs to incrementally pursue complex ideas such as a laser weapon integrated into the Aegis Combat System and a high-power laser for boost-phase kill in missile defense, officials said today at the 2017 Directed Energy Summit.
This ability to learn through prototypes and experiments has always been resident in the MDA but is new for the Navy. The Navy recently created a Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program as its very first Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation and Demonstration (RPED) project, which allows the service to put new technologies in the field, learn lessons early to reduce risk, and decide whether and how to proceed before spending too much money, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems (OPNAV N9), said at the summit, cohosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Normally, reducing risk involves awarding a contract to “a traditional provider of defense systems” and spending a lot of time and money on development. With RPED, Manazir said the Navy is pursuing multiple lines of effort under the umbrella of the Surface Navy Laser Weapons System program: researchers are looking at improving the laser itself through increased power, increased beam quality and the ability to “modularize,” and at the same time learning how to integrate laser weapons available today into the Aegis Combat Systems.
“The thing I’m interested in is the ability to use our folks to figure out how to integrate this stuff into our current weapons systems,” Manazir said.
“There are systems out there right now at various power levels that are just stand-alone. We know that. What we’d like to do is be able to integrate it so that when you have an effect in competition, in war, in a maritime environment, you know how to put those together with the kinetic systems we already have in the field.”