Funding for laser weapons research growing
Posted by John McHale
Last week Rajiv Pandey, senior product manager at DILAS in Tucson Ariz., told me that funding for laser weapons development comes in bunches but is strong and growing especially in the U.S. market.
DILAS develops diode lasers with a broad range of wavelengths for different Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programs, Pandey said. He added that DILAS also has seen significant growth in its laser illuminator designator products, which are available for various military platforms.
Moving to Arizona and forming a separate U.S. company to pursue laser development for the Department of Defense was a key for DILAS, whose parent company is based in Germany, Pandey said. This has helped foster the company's growth.
DARPA continues to award research contracts for different parts of programs such as the High Energy Liquid Laser , Pandey said. It is their goal to develop a reliable high-power solid-state laser , he added.
According to the DARPA web site "the goal of the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system (150 kiloWatt) with an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. With a weight goal of less than 5 kilograms/kiloWatt, HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems."
The laser program that gets most of the ink in the press is still the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program, which is the closest to fruition and the largest laser weapon in development. We've written extensively about it at Military & Aerospace Electronics , but we've also covered the capabilities of solid-state lasers for weapons systems.
Yes, lasers are years away from replacing a Marine's rifle, but the ABL is a year or two away with ground-based laser defense systems right behind it. Eventually you will see lasers added to fighter jet arsenals too.
Along those lines Boeing announced yesterday that it successfully completed the preliminary design of a rugged beam control system for the U.S. Army's High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) program. This was part of a contract to design a beam control system for a truck-mounted laser weapon system, according to Boeing officials.