Radiance Technologies, in Huntsville, has landed a $49.1 million U.S. Army contract to speed development of lasers to respond to increasingly advanced foreign-made weapons.
“The increasing complexity and flexibility of target sets require HEL (high energy laser) systems to engage and destroy targets faster and farther away,” the company says in its contract announcement.
Exactly what these “target sets” are and what countries posses them goes unstated. All U.S. defense branches, however, have been working in response to an array of hypersonic missiles deployed by Russia and unveiled in a March 2018 announcement by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. China also has displayed such weapons. They fly at Mach 5, a quantum leap in speed, and require a much faster response time over greater distances. Lasers, which travel at light speed, are one of the fields promising to catch up U.S. defenses.
The Army announced in June it was accelerating its efforts to field a laser prototype system by 2022 and a hypersonic weapon prototype by 2023.
That came four months after Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said, “In the last year, China has tested more hypersonic weapons than we have in a decade. We’ve got to fix that.”
Radiance says its contract aims to “increase readiness of manufacturing techniques to support the Army’s acceleration to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022.”
“This effort provides an additional area for the Radiance Engineering Services Group to deliver vision and expertise into the environment of rapid acceleration of high energy laser weapon systems,” said Amber Young, a high-energy laser division manager at Radiance.
Radiance Technologies engineers components for advanced weapons systems. The company also does work in cyber security, systems engineering, prototyping, and operational and strategic intelligence.
The United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command is the contractor, and the work will be done for a program called the Manufacturing Advancement of Components for High Energy Lasers.
Radiance is an employee-owned prime contractor founded in 1999. It has over 800 employee-owners across the U.S.