The US is pushing to develop a new ground-based laser weapon. It sees the technology as the future of air and missile defense against proliferating artillery, drone, missile, and possibly hypersonic weapon threats. This month, Breaking Defense reported that the US Army had selected Lockheed Martin to develop a new high-energy laser prototype to defend fixed and semi-fixed sites from air attack under a US$220.8 million contract. The source says the contract mandates Lockheed Martin to “develop, integrate, manufacture, test and deliver” an Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) prototype weapon system. It notes that, at present, the US Army has provided Lockheed Martin with $154 million in fiscal 2023 funding, and the remaining funds could be redirected toward the effort between now and mid-October 2025. While Breaking Defense says Lockheed Martin deferred questions about the contract to the US Army, the company has been working on HEL projects, including a 300-kilowatt laser under the Pentagon’s High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI). However, the source notes that it is not clear if other companies are competing for the project, as the US Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) issued a request in March for white papers on 100-kilowatt lasers and shed some additional light on program plans. More bang for the buck Regarding ground warfare, IFPC-HEL may be the future of counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) capability. Michael Libeau notes in a 2012 article for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) that lasers have a greater magazine depth than gun and missile systems, since they only use electricity for operation, giving them a potentially unlimited magazine.