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The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Raytheon a $23.81m contract to develop two prototype High Energy Laser Weapon Systems (HELWS).

The HELWS systems will be deployed outside the US for field assessment and experimentation.

The testing will include 12 months of in-field operation by USAF personnel against unmanned aerial systems threats and operator training.

Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems vice-president Stefan Baur said: “Every day, there’s another story about a rogue drone incident.

“These threats aren’t going away, and in many instances, shooting them with a high-energy laser weapon system is the most effective and safest way to bring them down.”

The company’s HELWS systems can detect, identify and take down drones with precision using energy rather than conventional munitions.

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By GlobalData

The HELWS can be paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System, which provides electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities.

US forces will mount the laser weapon system on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle.

Under the terms of the contract, Raytheon is expected to complete the work by 1 November 2020.

During a demonstration to the USAF in April this year, Raytheon’s high power microwave (HPM) and mobile high-energy laser (HEL) systems engaged and defeated multiple unmanned aerial system (UAS) targets.

HPM uses microwave energy to disrupt UAS guidance systems, allowing operators to target and instantly defeat drone swarms at lower costs than with missiles.

The technologies will offer protection to the ground troops from the growing threat of hostile drones.

The company also recently successfully demonstrated directed energy systems for the US Army.