As part of an ongoing effort to modernize the battlefield, the U.S. Army is working with Kord Technologies to put laser weapons on the ground. The newly created Directed Energy Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system (or DE M-SHORAD for short), a 50 kilowatt-class laser integrated on to a Stryker vehicle, is designed to shoot down threats like drones and mortars without the use of guns and heavy artillery. Following a successful combat shoot-off earlier this year, Kord Technologies is preparing four prototypes of the laser weapon system, which are mounted on armored Stryker vehicles, to be deployed into the field in September 2022. Here, Wesley Freiwald, vice president for Space Superiority and Missile Defense at KBR, Kord Technologies\u2019 parent company, explains just how this groundbreaking system works and why it\u2019s a valuable asset for the Army. What Is the DE M-SHORAD Weapon System? The lasers being created for the Army are nothing like the lasers you know. Compared to the average laser pointer, which is around 0.005 watts and effectively harmless, the DE M-SHORAD weapon systems have significantly more power. As much as 50 kilowatts of power, to be more exact. They can destroy drones and mortars, providing assistance to troops and protection in the field. For those who want to get technical, the DE M-SHORAD weapon system uses solid-state lasers that leverage the lanthanide elements on the periodic table\u2014lanthanum (57) to lutetium (71)\u2014otherwise known as rare-earth metals. These elements have high excitation levels, meaning you can get a lot of power or energy out of them without chemicals or gas. And this is helpful to the Army for a number of reasons. The Benefits of the DE M-SHORAD Weapon System According to Freiwald, solid-state lasers can help reduce the cost per kill, a metric that\u2019s often used to measure a defense system\u2019s worth. \u201cHauling heavy lead and explosives around requires a bunch of logistics and is very costly,\u201d he says. \u201cWith solid-state lasers, all you really need is a large battery supply, which, in case of DE M-SHORAD weapon system, is already integrated on the Stryker vehicle. \u201cSince you\u2019re not carrying around commercial ordinances, accounting for the people required to restock those things, solid-state lasers are, logistically, a little more friendly.\u201d The leave-behind, or lack thereof, is another significant benefit of the DE M-SHORAD system. You aren\u2019t leaving unexploded ordnances on the battlefield, which is a huge problem. The leave-behind from using this type of laser technology for targeted defense is a burnt-up drone or mortar, which can no longer pose a threat. While the risk is never zero, the DE M-SHORAD system is generally easier, more cost-effective, and safer to use than traditional kinetic ballistic weapons. \u201cYou turn it on and you turn it off,\u201d Freiwald says. \u201cWith a rocket, you have to load it, launch it, and keep your fingers crossed while it\u2019s heading toward the target. If it hits it, great; if it doesn't, then you've got to load another rocket and start the process all over again.\u201d The First 4 Prototypes Several companies are collaborating to build each component of the DE M-SHORAD system, from the Stryker vehicles and the lasers to the laser banks, but Kord and KBR are the glue holding the project together. \u201cYou need to integrate all of these pieces and KBR is an expert integration company with a long history in the directed energy business,\u201d Freiwald says. The company is currently finishing four prototypes that will go out into the field next September. \u201cIf these are successful, the Army is looking at procuring more of them to work alongside the kinetic programs,\u201d he adds. Once soldiers begin using this system in tactical environments, KBR will take back any lessons learned from the first four prototypes and start optimizing and tailoring them for future use.