Air Force set to launch high-power fiber laser research project

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M., 17 Jan. 2007. U.S. Air Force researchers say they will launch a research project next month to explore innovative techniques and approaches in advanced fiber laser systems.

By John Keller

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M., 17 Jan. 2007. U.S. Air Force researchers say they will launch a research project next month to explore innovative techniques and approaches in advanced fiber laser systems.

This announcements comes at the same time as an announcement by Northrop Grumman Corp. to build a specialized facility for systems integration and production of high-energy laser systems for military uses.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate (DE) at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., issued a pre-solicitation notice Jan. 12 of their interest in receiving proposals for developing an innovative high-power fiber laser, as well as for a diode-pumped alkali laser.

Fiber-optic lasers are emerging as promising candidates for future weapons-grade solid-state laser systems on jet fighters, land vehicles, and perhaps even man-portable systems, and have the potential to edge-out other solid-state laser approaches such as slab lasers and free-electron lasers, industry experts say.

Fiber lasers are more efficient, more easily cooled, are small and lightweight, and are relatively straightforward to scale up in power, which strengthens their position for future laser weapons programs.

Researchers at Kirtland say they will post a broad agency announcement (BAA-07-DE-01) for the program in early February.

The effort will be to explore innovative techniques and approaches in four technical areas:

-- development of theoretical models necessary to enable development of advanced pulsed and continuous-wave fiber laser systems;
-- experimental design and construction of a high-power fiber laser array;
-- design of an experimental high-power photonic crystal fiber amplifier and test system; and
-- development of models aimed at the AFRL hybrid diode pumped alkali laser.

Air Force experts say they expect to award one 12-month contract in April, which will be worth about $300,000.

To ask technical questions about this project, contact Air Force Lt. Col. Leanne Henry by phone at 505-846-9302, or by e-mail at Leanne.Henry@Kirtland.af.mil. For contactual or business questions contact Gary Riley by phone at 505-853-3306, or by e-mail to Gary.Riley@Kirtland.af.mil.

More information is online at www.fbodaily.com/archive/2007/01-January/14-Jan-2007/FBO-01211058.htm.

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