Military Eyes Prototype Megawatt-Class Laser Weapon for Missile Defense

Home / Articles / External Non-Government

April 9, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: April 9 on

FORT BELVOIR, VA. – U.S. missile-defense researchers will brief industry later this month on a project to build a prototype megawatt-class laser weapon within the next 7 years that can destroy incoming ballistic missiles, potentially in all phases of flight.

The Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Laser Scaling project of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will develop a prototype laser weapon system that will weigh no more than about 4 tons, including the laser, electric power, and thermal management subsystems. The project”s focus is on reducing size and weight and increasing power, electrical-to-optical efficiency, beam quality, and lasing runtime.

MDA officials will conduct industry briefings on the Laser Scaling project for ballistic missile defense from 9 to 11 a.m. on 23 April 2019, followed by one-on-one meetings from noon to 5 p.m., at MDA headquarters at 5700 18th St., Building 245, Fort Belvoir, VA.

MDA officials issued a request for information last week (HQ0277-19-RFI-0001) for the BMDS Laser Scaling project in efforts to understand industry’s ability to demonstrate a 1,000-kilowatt electrically pumped laser sometime between 2025 and 2026. 

Researchers also are interested in electrical power and thermal management subsystems for the prototype and are not yet providing a specific platform or strategic mission. It is to be a ground demonstrator laser with technology maturation and lightweight engineering paths to potential future applications.

MDA officials envision a laser weapon able to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles with near diffraction-limited beam quality at 1 megawatt of laser power with a vertical beam quality of 1.1 at 0.25 lambda/D. It should have a laser wavelength shorter than 1 micron to offer high intensity on the target at long ranges.