October 08, 2008

Military Laser Technology Roundup

1. Mirrored drones can make jet mounted lasers more effective. [H/T alfin and Tom Craver]

The flying laser cannon could be accompanied by a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) fitted with mirrors. These relay UAVs would be harder to spot and more disposable than a 747, and could bounce the high-energy beam onto targets that might otherwise be out of range, or out of the plane's line-of-sight. With multiple flying drones, a single ABL could cover an exponentially wider area. It would be an entirely new combination of lasers and robots­—and it may be the answer to critics aiming to dismantle ABL before it ever flies.

Snake Oil Baron notes that power lasers that are land based or on large navy ships would also become more effective.

Airborne laser fact sheet. Note: there is a kilowatt beacon laser that allows the main megawatt laser to be adjusted for atmospheric disturbance.

2. Truck mounted battlefield lasers have also gotten more funding but are not expected to be fielded until 2016

Tactical lasers would protect against rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned airborne vehicles by blasting them out of the sky.

3. Dazzler lasers are being used in Iraq.

"Dazzlers," as they're called, shoot green beams designed to "warn or temporarily incapacitate individuals." The Geneva Conventions ban weapons meant to cause permanent blindness.

4. Northrup Grumman received $128 million for laser rangefinders

5. Grumman demonstrated their solid state laser.

-- Raised its demonstrated lethality by precisely combining two laser chains to produce record power -30 kW - in an excellent beam-beam quality of 2.1 times the theoretical limit
-- Operated at this performance level for more than five minutes continuously and more than 40 minutes total; and
-- Achieved electrical-to-optical efficiency of greater than 19 percent.
-- have proven all aspects of our scalable design for 100kW

6. Grumman has shipped the 15KW Vesta II solid state laser.

This lower power level might suffice against easy targets such as cellphone towers, car engines, unexploded munitions or what have you

7. A new optical fiber material could enable laser-based devices to be built operating at multiple frequencies.

The new material--cesium zirconium phosphorus selenium (CsZrPSe6)--can add, subtract and double laser beam wavelengths, enabling devices with two laser sources to produce many usable wavelengths. With two lasers you could generate all the frequencies.

Argonne researchers claim the new technology could be used in sensors that detect biological and chemical weapons.

The new compound produced frequency-doubled beams 15 times more intense than those produced by the best commercial materials today, according to Kanatzidis.

8. Existing materials limit fiber lasers to 36kW. New materials could increase this power limit

9. High-power fiber lasers at the kilowatt power level are gaining momentum and require higher-brightness pump modules as the target laser power increases, requiring a switch to multi-emitter diode bars.

A 1 kW master-oscillator power-amplifier (MOPA) fiber laser system is based on commercially available fiber, components, and pump diodes.

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