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nLIGHT HELSI Contract Soars to $171 Million

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Semiconductor fiber laser technology developer nLIGHT, via nLIGHT DEFENSE Systems, was awarded additional options that more than double the previously announced contract to produce a high-energy laser prototype as part of the second phase of the U.S. Department of Defense’s High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI). The original phase two award, announced in May, was for $86 million. The exercise of the additional options takes the value of the award to $171 million.
nLIGHT DEFENSE Systems rugged megawatt-class laser. Courtesy of nLight via Business Wire.
nLIGHT DEFENSE Systems rugged megawatt-class laser. Courtesy of nLight via Business Wire.

In the second phase of the HELSI program, which is expected to be executed over the next three years, nLIGHT will build upon its modular coherent beam combined (CBC) architecture to scale laser source power to the megawatt-class with improved beam quality, size, and weight. This laser will be delivered in a rugged conex-compatible form factor with optional space allocations to upgrade with precision long-range tracking and adaptive optics technology.

In the first phase of the HELSI program, nLIGHT used its CBC architecture to demonstrate a 300-kW-class high-energy laser with power and brightness exceeding program objectives. According to Jeff Barchers, president of nLIGHT DEFENSE Systems, the company’s work on the second phase of the HELSI program will further support the broader transition of high-energy lasers for the military.

Under the ongoing HELSI program, Lockheed Martin announced this summer that it planned to scale its laser technology to a new, 500-kW-class laser benchmark, topping its demonstrated 300-kW-class laser power level. The HELSI program to date has led to successful demonstrations of multiple 300-kW-class systems. According to a Congressional Research Service publication earlier this year, the HELSI program aims to demonstrate laser output power scaling while maintaining or improving beam quality. The report added that HELSI is intended to strengthen the defense industrial base for potential future directed energy weapons by providing near-term prototyping opportunities for
industry partners.

nLIGHT announced the contract concurrent with its release of financial results for third-quarter 2023. Revenue for the third quarter came in at $50.6 million, toward the upper end of nLIGHT’S projections, but down 15.7% quarter over quarter. The company expects revenues in the range of $45 million to $50 million for the fourth quarter.

Published: November 2023
directed energy
Directed energy refers to a type of energy that is emitted and transferred in a controlled direction. The term is often associated with military and technological applications where energy, typically in the form of electromagnetic radiation, is focused and directed toward a specific target. Directed energy systems can take various forms, including lasers and high-power microwaves. The key characteristic is the intentional concentration of energy to achieve a desired effect on a target. In...
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