Northrop Grumman DES to target military

Northrop Grumman Corporation has established a new business area to help transition its high-energy laser systems from the laboratory to the battlefield.

REDONDO BEACH, CA - Northrop Grumman Corporation has established a new business area to help transition its high-energy laser systems from the laboratory to the battlefield. The new group, dubbed Directed Energy Systems (DES), is being headed up by Art Stephenson, a 28-year company veteran and former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The DES division combines the activities of several Northrop Grumman subsidiaries, including Cutting Edge Optronics (St. Louis, MO) and Synoptics (Charlotte, NC), and will focus on the further development of chemical lasers, solid-state lasers, and rocket-based engagement systems. The goal is to make available to the military laser and non-laser systems that can engage and destroy mortars, rockets, artillery, and other threats to protect U.S. and allied military and civilian populations and assets.

“We feel the time has come to move these directed-energy lasers (including the Airborne Laser, the Tactical High Energy Laser, the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser, and the Strategic Illuminator Laser) and the rocket-based Active Protection System to the next level and put them into the hands of warfighters,” Stephenson said. “Our work on chemical lasers as part of the THEL program has produced derivatives that are ready for deployment. These lasers are the pathfinders to the military’s use of directed energy to defend against the variety of attacks we’re seeing today.”

In addition, Stephenson said, while chemical lasers offer a starting point for incorporating directed energy weapons into security and combat operations, solid-state lasers offer the promise of more flexible, ubiquitous, and mobile defense systems for future years. Stephenson believes the first chemical lasers could be available within two years, while high-power solid-state laser weapons could be deployed in six to nine years.

“We have been working a long time with our Army, Air Force, and Navy customers on technologies that we think are coming along,” Stephenson said. “So really we are just proceeding down that path and thinking that now we are ready to really produce these things. Prior to this we had technology development in one part of the company and business development in the other. Now we are just pulling it all together under one umbrella.”

The new organization is not expected to affect operations at Cutting Edge or Synoptics, he added, other than to offer them more direct support and tie them in better to the rest of the company.

-Kathy Kincade

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