By John Keller
BOTHELL, Wash.-Lockheed Martin Corp. is announcing further details on a U.S. military contract to design and manufacture a high-power fiber laser suitable for military laser weapons. The program, called the Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), calls for laser experts at the Lockheed Martin Aculight facility in Bothell, Wash., to develop a 100-kilowatt fiber laser for military defensive applications on aircraft, land vehicles, and surface warships.
A fiber laser uses optical fiber to produce near-perfect-quality beams and confine the light within the glass structure of the fiber without mirrors or other optics that can become misaligned. This helps to account for the system's small size and ability to generate high power, while using relatively low amounts of electricity.
|This fiber laser hardware is a product of Lockheed Martin Aculight in Bothell, Wash.|
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., awarded a $14.7 million, six-year contract to Lockheed Martin last July, which ultimately could be worth as much as $59 million, Lockheed Martin officials say. At the same time, the Army also awarded a $9.1 million contract to the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif., as part of the RELI program. The Northrop Grumman Corp. Space and Mission Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., is also involved in the RELI program.
Army Space Missile Defense Command is awarding the contracts also on behalf of the DOD High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL JTO), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). DOD researchers want Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to develop high-power, weapons-grade lasers with better than 30 percent efficiency, with beams near diffraction limited quality with power greater than 25 kilowatts and run times that meet military mission requirements.
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will demonstrate and test the lasers they develop at the DOD High- Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.