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NLight stock surges 40% after being awarded $86m defence contract

High-energy laser weapon

Laser weapons could be used to engage and neutralise unmanned aircraft systems, small boats, rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Fibre laser manufacturer NLight has been awarded an $86 million contract to produce a High Energy Laser (HEL) prototype for the next phase of development in support of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI).

The new contract, which caused NLight stock prices to surge almost 40% when announced, will form part of a multi-year development programme expected to commence in Q3 2023.

It follows on from NLight being selected in 2019 by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering to produce a 300kW class high energy laser as part of the first phase of the HELSI programme. In 2022, through successfully scaling its coherent beam combined (CBC) architecture, the firm demonstrated power exceeding the program's objectives.

The programme aligns with the current DoD plans to produce weapons with output powers of 500kW by 2025 and 1MW by 2026, all with reduced size and weight. Such weapons could be used to engage and neutralise unmanned aircraft systems, small boats, rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons.

“When we founded NLight over 20 years ago, our vision was to produce the highest power and brightness lasers by leveraging vertical integration from semiconductor laser chips through beam control,” commented Scott Keeney, CEO of NLight. “This contract award reflects NLight's deep commitment to the defence market and our ability to combine our leading technology with the benefits of high-volume commercial laser operations to deliver innovative and cost-effective directed energy lasers.”

“We are thrilled to have the continued support of the HELSI programme to develop and further demonstrate our CBC technology and innovative beam combination and control,” commented Jeff Barchers, President of NLight Defense Systems. “Our technology is capable of scaling to higher powers and providing higher performance, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the DoD.”

In the manufacturing sector, NLight is well-known for its Corona fibre laser technology, offering adjustable beam mode functionality.

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