recommended reading

US Army to Test Powerful New Truck-Mounted Laser ‘Within Months’

U.S. Army

Progress in battlefield lasers is exceeding some of the most optimistic expectations of just a few years ago. The latest evidence comes from Lockheed Martin, which Thursday announced a new record: 58 kilowatts of direct power from a solid-state fiber laser.

Lockheed will send it to the Army in a matter of months for testing on a High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck, or HELMTT, according to Lockheed’s Robert Afzal, a senior fellow for laser and sensor systems. But Afzal says the scalability of the laser opens up use on everything from drones to massive ships and at different levels of power.

First, how powerful is a 58-kilowatt laser? Nearly twice as fierce as the company’s ATHENA, which can be seen burning through the hood of a car from miles away in this 2015 video.

The new laser puts 40 percent of available energy into its beam, which is considered very high for solid-state lasers.

The Defense Department put out the call for a 50-kilowatt laser in 2014, looking to upgrade the 10-kilowatt beam on its High-Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator project, or HEL MD, launched in 2011.

The new laser will “upgrade the capability of that truck by a factor of five at least,” Afzal said today on a call with reporters.

It’s an important breakthrough for solid-state, combined-beam fiber lasers. Unlike the chemical lasers the military was experimenting with decades ago, solid-state lasers require no volatile chemicals to produce high-powered beams. A combined-beam fiber laser operates a bit like a prism, pulling together different beams of light and squishing them into one. The more fiber optics you add, the more energy you get out the other end. That allows you to vary the size for different applications.

But there is another reason you’ll see more lasers in combat soon. More and more military vehicles and trucks are using advanced hybrid engine and propulsion systems that produce electricity for applications like lasers. In the small-truck range, the Northrop Grumman Hell Hound produces 100 kilowatts of onboard power. Drone manufacturer Auroa Flight Sciences is also using a novel electricity-producing engine on it’s experimental vertical-lift drone, the LightningStrike. The company is looking to incorporate lasers on that platform as well.

Last October, Afzal said Lockheed was exploring putting fiber lasers onto the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force is looking to build lasers onto fighter jets through its recently announced Self-protected High-Energy Laser Demonstration, or SHIELD, program. U.S. Special Operations Command is also looking to deploy a laser on an AC-130J gunship within a year.

Afzal was optimistic the Lockheed Martin laser could help meet all of those needs:

“The core of this technology, and our demo validates this, this technology is scalable," he said. "We can go up or down in power, go smaller or larger.”

By Patrick Tucker Defense One March 17, 2017

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.