WASHINGTON — Virginia-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is building a new high-energy laser business that builds on the company’s internal investments in directed energy technology in recent years.
The company announced that the business unit, called HELworks, is headquartered in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with a second facility in Knoxville, Tennessee. 10.
Booz Allen has been working on directed energy projects for nearly 30 years—from providing technical expertise for high-energy laser projects to developing government prototypes for HEL and high-power microwave systems. Joe Shepherd, CEO of HELworks, told C4ISRNET in an interview in October. Over the past five years, the company has focused more of its internal investment on developing its own high-energy laser capabilities, the company said in an Oct. 10 interview at the U.S. Army Association conference.
Directed energy, including high-energy lasers, has been an emerging market for the Defense Department for years, but the technology has become a growing priority for the Pentagon. Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, included directed energy on a list of 14 critical and emerging technologies released in February.
Shepherd said that increasing interest in the DoD is one of the current driving forces for HELworks.
“The market is showing the requisite outlook and trends, and our internal technology maturity has gotten to the point where we now have an addressable market with our capabilities,” he said.
With the announcement of the new business units, Booz Allen has also launched three HELworks product lines, which have been the focus of the company’s recent internal R&D investments. The first is the High Energy Laser Mission Kit, which is kinetic and non-kinetic and designed for the Army’s Stryker armored vehicle. The HEL MEP is small and lightweight and can be attached to an existing short-range air defense system or integrated with another platform.
Shepherd said the HEL MEP is scheduled for initial field testing this fall, in time for an Army demonstration at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in December.
The mission equipment package is powered by HELworks’ second product line, LightEngine, which Shepherd describes as the “common core foundation” for many laser weapon systems.
“It’s applicable to almost any platform in any laser weapon system,” he said. “For example, it’s agnostic about the beam director that directs the light onto the target, it’s agnostic about the platform it fits into.”
HELworks’ third product line, modular compact high-energy lasers, offers a small, portable package that can be expanded for a range of design options. According to the company’s fact sheet, the system can fit in 10 boxes that fit on a mid-size pickup truck.
The company has developed, field tested and delivered an operational prototype of the MCHEL.
“This is really the first time we’ve spoken publicly about the fact that not only have we designed, developed and built a prototype like this under IRAD, but we’ve also delivered one to the US government,” he said.
Shepherd declined to name MCHEL’s first customer.