Northrop Grumman has been selected to develop “military-grade,” solid-state laser technology that is expected to pave the way for the US military to incorporate high-energy laser systems across all services, including ships, manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground vehicles.
The 36-month, $56.68 million contract for Phase 3 of the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) program was awarded to Northrop Grumman’s Space Technology sector on December 22, 2005.
Under the current phase, the program’s goal is for a laser system to reach 100 kW, setting the stage for a variety of force protection and strike missions such as shipboard defence against cruise missiles; wide-area, ground-based defence against rockets, artillery, and mortars; and precision strike missions for airborne platforms.
The Northrop Grumman-led team has already surpassed a critical milestone on the JHPSSL 2 program when it demonstrated a laser system with a total power of greater than 27 kW with a run time of 350 seconds.
“We’re anxious to move forward with scaling up to the 100 kW power level in Phase 3 of the program,” commented Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “With parallel funding for attendant laser weapon system technologies and demonstrations, systems using very high-power lasers could be deployed in as little as four to five years.”
Northrop Grumman’s approach utilises amplifier chains assembled with multiple high-power gain modules. The company’s JHPSSL demonstrator used two chains to demonstrate the 27 kW level achieved during Phase 2. Avoiding the need for new physics or scaling, the company’s 100 kW architecture uses eight chains, very similar to those used in its 27 kW device.
JHPSSL Phase 1 addressed risk reduction of the technologies necessary to obtain high power and beam quality simultaneously. Phase 2 took these technologies and scaled them to greater than 25 kW, and showed further scalability to 100 kW and beyond.
This image shows Northrop Grumman Corporation’s concept of a Future Combat Systems-class Army ground-combat armoured vehicle with a solid-state laser that would be used to defeat incoming threats like mortars and rockets