WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has awarded a nearly $40 million contract to Parsons to produce ground vehicles that can clear mines or unexploded ordnance from airfields — using a laser.
The package covers the procurement of 13 Recovery of Airbase Denied by Ordnance (RADBO) vehicles, as well as three spares. The system is made up of a Cougar MRAP, Parsons' three-kilowatt ZEUS laser weapon, and an arm assembly that can move debris or other objects out of the way.
The idea behind the RADBO is to allow airmen to clear threats from current or future airfields – hardly the laser warfare capability sought by Pentagon planners for decades, but still a potentially important step, as it represents the first DoD ground-based laser system to be ordered into full production.
The service awarded Parsons the sole-source contract on Sept. 23. Work will be performed in Huntsville, Ala., with a completion date of Sept. 2023. According to a 2018 video from the Air Force’s Installation and Mission Support Center, the majority of development work on the RADBO design was done at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville.
Parsons claims the ZEUS design can hit targets “more than 300 meters away from the vehicle and is powerful enough to detonate small submunitions from cluster bombs, land mines, general purposed bombs and thick-cased artillery rounds,” per a company announcement.
“This is Parsons innovation: delivering a game changing warfighting product,” Hector Cuevas, Parsons executive vice president of missile defense and C5ISR, said in a statement. “We’re proud to partner with the Air Force in deploying this critical force protection and mission enabling technology that will greatly increase safe and effective explosive ordnance disposal operations.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.