Army Special Forces Wants Lasers to Shoot Down Drones


The winning vendor will get two high energy lasers and two radar systems to combine into a working, drone-killing prototype.

The Army wants to protect Special Forces operators from unmanned aerial systems—better known as drones—by shooting them out of the sky with high-energy weapons—better known as lasers.

The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office added a new section to its broad agency announcement vehicle for cutting-edge technologies, putting out a call under “Counter Unmanned Aerial System High Energy Laster,” or C-sUAS HEL.

“The primary opportunity and purpose of this effort is to integrate a government owned High Energy Laser subsystem with a power and thermal subsystem and sensor package to demonstrate increased lethality in negating sUAS,” the call states.

Using lasers—or even laser pointers—to take down drones is not a new idea, and the U.S. military has been working on high-energy laser systems for years. This latest effort would apply existing military research to countering small drones and develop a single system that could be deployed by Special Forces.

Chosen vendors will be given two Army-owned “high energy laser weapons systems and two surveillance radar systems” to develop into working counter-drone systems, including “designing, integrating, prototyping and delivering” working systems.

The C-sUAS HEL system must meet five criteria to be viable:

  • Detect and characterize Class 1 and 2 UAS threats at standoff ranges.
  • Possess hard-kill capability against Class 1 and 2 unmanned aerial systems using a high energy laser at standoff ranges with high reliability. 
  • Be agnostic towards laser technology, have a modular open system design, and interface with Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control. 
  • Possess the capability to defend fixed and semi fixed sites. 
  • Reach Technology Readiness Level 7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level 5 when demonstrated as a prototype at the end of this effort.

While the program cannot guarantee future contracts or acquisitions, the plan is to continue this effort, if successful, with follow-on production agreements.

“It is not fully known at this time what the quantities or dollar values will be, or which exact program office or agency may produce follow-on production,” the call states. “However, it is fully expected that the hardware/software will be used in follow-on production agreements or contracts by one or more agencies and/or program offices.”

White papers should be submitted through the Vulcan platform by 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

The new call for white papers comes shortly after the Pentagon released its first counter sUAS strategy.