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​The High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype (HFP) effort aimed to build a land-based laser to protect bases from airborne threats, then scale it up to fly on an aircraft. Training and Readiness Accelerator photo.

The Air Force recently canceled its fledgling initiative to prototype a high-energy laser for base and aircraft defense because it is still fleshing out its directed-energy priorities, an Air Force Research Laboratory official told Air Force Magazine.

The High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype (HFP) effort aimed to build a land-based laser to protect bases from airborne threats, then scale it up to fly on an aircraft.

“We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office's directed-energy efforts, said in a Jan. 22 interview. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”

A request for solutions was published Dec. 12. A week later, the Defense Department announced it would suspend the program. The Army confirmed in a Jan. 16 post the military no longer needs to look for a prototype and will not award any contracts.

While the Air Force is moving forward with several laser and microwave development efforts, HFP would have been one of the fastest. Using an Army-run other transaction agreement, the Air Force expected to choose companies by the end of March to develop the prototype, then ground-test the system within a year of award. The Air Force planned to demonstrate the laser in flight if the ground tests were successful.