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Unmanned air giant General Atomics scored the contract for the first phase of the Missile Defense Agency’s low power laser demonstration contract this week, marking the first step on the road toward a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV with a high-energy laser.
Before creating a UAV that can prosecute intercontinental ballistic missiles in the boost phase, the preliminary effort will establish beam stability at long range and the ability to dwell on a single spot on a target. Under the $8.8 million contract, General Atomics will address laser power and aperture size by integrating and testing a low power laser on an unmanned aerial vehicle, according to a 6 November Defense Department notice.
MDA is aiming for a low-power flight test by 2020 and beam stability testing by 2021, FlightGlobal previously reported. Under a previous MDA contract, General Atomics demonstrated precision tracking on its MQ-9 Reaper using Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System-C electro-optical/infrared turret. While Raytheon's MTS-B system has short- and mid-wave infrared (IR) sensors, the MTS-C’s long-wave IR sensor allows the system to track cold bodies or ballistic missiles in their cruise phase.