Northrop Laser Reaches Weapons Grade

19 March 2009 (Last Updated March 19th, 2009 18:30)

Northrop Grumman has reached an important milestone in weapons grade laser technology by producing the first light ray measured at more than 105kW. The company announced the record after completing phase three of the US military's joint high power solid state laser (JHPSSL) programme.

Northrop Grumman has reached an important milestone in weapons grade laser technology by producing the first light ray measured at more than 105kW.

The company announced the record after completing phase three of the US military's joint high power solid state laser (JHPSSL) programme.

Northrop Grumman's modular JHPSSL design makes it possible to scale laser weapon systems to mission-required power levels for a variety of uses that include force protection and precision strike missions for air, sea and land-based platforms.

Vice president of directed energy systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Dan Wildt said that passing the 100kW 'military grade' threshold was very important.

"Many militarily useful effects can be achieved by laser weapons of 25kW or 50 kW, provided this energy is transmitted with good beam quality, as our system does. With this milestone, we have far exceeded those needs," Wildt said.

"Power scaling will be one of the game-changing features of high-energy lasers because it allows graduated responses by US military services appropriate for whatever level of threat they may face. Threats vary, and so should the response."

For building blocks, the company uses 'laser amplifier chains', each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5kW.

The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3%, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.

Northrop Grumman's JHPSSL programme manager, Jay Marmo said that the building block approach would allow the army to push forward with more challenging missions.

"Getting to 100kW with replicated building blocks proves we can scale to these higher power levels if required for a given mission," Marmo said.

By Daniel Garrun.