The U.S Army awarded an Other Transaction for Prototype Agreement (pOTA) to advance development in detecting, tracking, identifying, and defeating small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) hazards and threats using high energy lasers.

The pOTA was issued by the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) on June 18, 2021 for a contract value of $35,805,978.61. SAIC will develop, integrate, manufacture, and ultimately demonstrate a prototype C-sUAS High Energy Laser (HEL) System.

This effort will demonstrate increased lethality in negating sUAS and a laser technology-agnostic solution to sUAS type and origin.

"There is a need to provide a credible and critical threat to our adversaries," said LTG Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, which includes the RCCTO. "It's important that we operate on an accelerated timeline to gain capability on the battlefield and this effort gets us one step closer."

In November 2019, The Secretary of Defense designated the Army as the executive agent for   C-sUAS. In turn, the Secretary of the Army stood up the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) to address UAS threats while eliminating duplication and redundancies across the Department of Defense.

The JCO is pursuing High Energy Lasers (HELs) in maneuver and fixed/semi-fixed assets--as part of its enterprise approach to enable protection of personnel, materiel, and missions from the growing threats associated with rapidly increasing UAS technology.

On September 30, 2020, RCCTO completed a preliminary capabilities gap analysis report on High Energy Lasers (HEL) to develop key design characteristics for a materiel solution.

Initially targeted for FY23, the RCCTO is accelerating its program schedule to demonstrate C-sUAS HEL prototype weapons systems for defense of fixed/semi-fixed sites in FY22. The effort will demonstrate two low-cost C-sUAS prototype laser weapons systems with the ability to detect, track, identify, and enable hard kill defeat of Group 1 and 2 UAS threats.

The prototype system offers a small logistics footprint, a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), and low lifecycle costs.

The Army RCCTO, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is chartered to develop rapid prototypes and field residual combat capabilities. Its top focus areas are hypersonics, directed energy, and mid-range capabilities, but the organization is also conducting rapid prototyping in areas such as C-sUAS capabilities.