Raytheon wins contract for ‘directed-energy’ missile

Raytheon Missile System’s Ktech division in Albuquerque has won a $4.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to finalize a new type of missile that uses directed energy like lasers or microwaves rather than explosives to destroy battlefield targets.

The weapon could eliminate collateral damage in warfare, destroying only the intended targets with no people or other infrastructure affected, said Bob Fitzpatrick, Raytheon Missile Systems’ vice president for business development, during an event Wednesday morning to announce the contract.

“The goal is to deploy a weapon that uses energy systems without a single explosion and with nothing affected beyond the target,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is stuff of the future, but I’m here to tell you that today we have a solution.”

Raytheon Ktech now employs 170 people in New Mexico. The new contract will lead to more hiring, but it’s not clear how many employees will be added.

Raytheon’s Counter Electronics and High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, has been underway since 2012 to move the new weapon system from lab to battlefield. It is based on decades of research and development done in cooperation with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

A total of $10 million has been awarded for CHAMP, including the $4.8 million earmarked for Raytheon, plus $1.4 million for Sandia and $3.8 million for the AFRL, said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Heinrich helped secure $50 million in federal funding last year for directed energy research.

“It’s a challenge in today’s world to get people to wrap their heads around what’s being accomplished in directed energy right here in New Mexico, but you just need to look at Syria to understand what all those explosions happening there mean today,” Heinrich said at the Raytheon event Wednesday morning. “This technology can fly in a cruise missile, take out a command-and-control target electronically, and then crash in the desert or in the ocean without affecting a single human being – no collateral damage. That’s a game changer that opens enormous new possibilities for troops and war fighters.”

The technology is already very advanced, but the Department of Defense and other federal contracting agencies need more direct demonstrations that the weapons system can be deployed effectively and that it will offer significant advantages on the battlefield, Heinrich said.

“We’re at the point where this is now mature technology,” Heinrich said. “The question is how perfect do we want it to be to find its way into today’s fielded systems… The technology has moved so far from where it was in the mid-1990s that we run the risk of chasing perfection instead of deploying what’s fully capable technology.”

Arizona-based Raytheon Missile Systems is a division of Raytheon Co. in Massachusetts. The company bought the Albuquerque-based engineering firm Ktech Corp., which specialized in directed energy and pulsed power, for an undisclosed price in 2011.

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