U.S. Army selects Northrop Grumman's 100kW solid-state laser for field tests

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., 20 Feb. 2010. The from Northrop Grumman Corp.'s (NYSE:NOC) solid-state laser system – which produces a powerful beam from a continuous wave, electric laser – is joining other speed-of-light weapons demonstrators for field tests at the Army's High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTF), N.M.

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., 20 Feb. 2010. The from Northrop Grumman Corp.'s (NYSE:NOC) solid-state laser system – which produces a powerful beam from a continuous wave, electric laser – is joining other speed-of-light weapons demonstrators for field tests at the Army's High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTF), N.M.

In cooperation with the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, which operates the test range at White Sands Missile Range in southeastern New Mexico, BAE Systems has contracted with Northrop Grumman to relocate the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) Phase 3 system from the company's laser factory in Redondo Beach, Calif., to HELSTF. Field testing is expected to begin this year.

This laser will be integrated with the beam control and command and control systems from another Northrop Grumman-built system, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), to provide the Army with the world's first high-power, Solid State Laser Testbed Experiment (SSLTE), Northrop Grumman officials say.

The SSLTE will be used to evaluate the capability of a 100kW-class solid-state laser to accomplish a variety of missions. Those results will be the basis for directing future development of solid-state lasers as a weapon system.

"Northrop Grumman will have a lead role in integrating and operating the Army's solid-state laser test bed," says Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts – Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"Solid-state lasers have achieved militarily useful power levels and packaging densities," says Dan Wildt, vice president of Directed Energy Systems. "We have been demonstrating laser performance at HELSTF and other test sites for many years." These include missiles of various sizes and speeds, helicopters, drones, rockets, artillery, mortar rounds, and submunitions.

Both the relocation of the JHPSSL Phase 3 device and the THEL facility refurbishment are being carried out under an Army contract with BAE Systems, which has overall responsibility for the SSLTE systems engineering and test planning. BAE Systems is also developing a modular and transportable enclosure to house the JHPSSL device and its control room at the site.

Under the JHPSSL program, Northrop Grumman became the first company to reach the 100 kilowatt power level threshold for a solid-state laser. The achievement also included turn-on time of less than one second and continuous operating time of greater than five minutes, with very good efficiency and beam quality.

The JHPSSL program is funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology; Office of the Secretary of Defense – High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office, Albuquerque, N.M.; Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; and the Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va. Responsibility for program execution is assigned to USASMDC/ARSTRAT in Huntsville, Ala.

Northrop Grumman designed and built the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) for the U.S. Navy, which was a megawatt-class, continuous wave chemical laser. The company also developed the first standalone, fully integrated laser weapon system demonstrator, the THEL test bed, which was a joint effort by the Army and Israel's Ministry of Defense to engage short-range Katyusha l rockets.

Both MIRACL and THEL were high-power lasers based at HELSTF within the grounds of White Sands Missile Range. At HELSTF, the Army tests high-energy laser technologies and weapon systems for propagation, lethality, survivability and dynamic engagements. HELSTF has access to the 3,200 square miles of restricted land area and 7,000 square miles of restricted airspace at White Sands to conduct such tests.

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