24 Sep 2014
Novel ordnance system uses high-power diode source to initiate explosions.
Wisconsin-based laser diode developer Alfalight has won another contract to deliver sources for the “terminal high-altitude area defense” (THAAD) missile defense system delivered to the US military and others by prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
The system features a laser-initiated ordnance system (LIOS) built by Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company (PSEMC), and Alfalight will provide lasers under a deal worth $3.7 million to the company over an 18-month period.
According to Lockheed, which announced a $3.9 billion THAAD production contract with the US and the United Arab Emirates a year ago, it is the only missile defense system capable of intercepting threats both inside and outside Earth’s atmosphere.
The LIOS element provides the THAAD system with an innovative way to control the interceptor missile’s flight from launch through to impact - using laser light to initiate explosive charges.
“In addition to reliable control of sequences, the laser technology safeguards against potential accidental initiation and EMS [electromagnetic] disruption,” says Alfalight.
Vote of confidence
Over the past decade, the THAAD program is said to have had a 100 per cent success rate with 11 attempted intercepts.
Alfalight CEO Mohan Warrior said: "This contract is a valued vote of confidence from our customer and builds on Alfalight's many years of success in high-performance laser systems for defense and security.
"It highlights our capabilities for designing and manufacturing rugged, integrated laser systems for the most demanding and critical applications. We are proud to have been a successful provider of consistently high-quality lasers to PSEMC for the THAAD program over the past decade."
PSEMC has been working on a variety of laser ordnance systems for more than two decades, starting with Q-switched and Nd:YAG setups that have long since been superseded by high-power laser diodes. Typical functions of the laser element include flight termination, flare activation and stage separation.
In April last year, Alfalight announced that it was going to concentrate on the defense market, after deciding to sell its compound semiconductor manufacturing facilities to Arizona-based Compound Photonics.