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Lockheed laser weapon hits 30kW

29 Jan 2014

Defense contractor says that spectral beam combining delivers 'weapons grade' beam.

The US defense and aerospace company Lockheed Martin says that it has demonstrated a 30 kilowatt fiber laser that pushes the technology closer to military deployment.

Described as “weapons grade” laser, it combines a large number of sources operating at slightly different wavelengths, and is said to retain beam quality while consuming half the electrical power of a more conventional solid-state laser.

Delivering sufficiently high power (100 kilowatts is generally thought to be needed) to destroy military targets like enemy artillery or drones requires near-perfect beam quality to be maintained over long distances. Meanwhile electrical efficiency is crucial to ensure that the laser systems can be cooled effectively and remain a manageable size.

Lockheed is one of many working on different approaches to the challenge, with the likes of Boeing, MBDA Systems, Raytheon and Rheinmetall all reporting progress in recent months. Last year the US Navy said that it intended to deploy a high-power laser weapon on board USS Ponce in 2014.

Laser components advance
In a statement Lockheed’s CTO Ray Johnson said: “Lockheed Martin has opened the aperture for high-power, electrically driven laser systems suitable for military applications.”

“Advancements in available laser components, along with the maturity and quality of our innovative beam-combining technology, support our goal of providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for use on military platforms such as aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”

According to the US firm, the latest demonstration marks a significant milestone on the path to deploying a mission-relevant laser weapon system for a wide range of air, land and sea military platforms.

“Prior laser weapon demonstrations in the industry showed target acquisition, tracking and destruction. However, these solutions were limited for tactical military use because their laser inefficiencies drove significant size, power and cooling needs not readily supported by key military ground and airborne platforms,” the company said.

Having worked on the development of so-called directed energy weapons for the past 30 years, Lockheed took a key step towards accelerating that effort when it purchased the fiber laser company Aculight in 2008.

The defense contractor has been heavily involved in US government-funded projects such as the Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), and in May 2013 Lockheed said that its “area defense anti-munitions” system, a portable 10 kilowatt fiber laser known as “ADAM”, had shot down rocket targets in tests from a distance of just under a mile (see video).

SPECTROGON ABABTechMad City Labs, Inc.Hyperion OpticsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationLaCroix Precision Optics
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