KIRTLAND AFB, N.M. - Scientists from the U.S. Air Force and the Boeing Co. test fired a laser for the first time using recycled fuel last August at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
“This fuel recycling process can be continued indefinitely, providing a practical way to fuel laser weapons for the Air Force and other military services without the complexity and cost of periodically supplying new fuel to the battlefield,” says Jason A Marshall, a research chemist and the Air Force project officer on the program.
The test at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland supplied a chemical laser with its two main fuels-basic hydrogen peroxide and chlorine-which experts regenerated from waste products produced during prior laser operations. Testers fired the laser at high power on the order of several kilowatts to prove its performance.
This achievement “will substantially improve warfighting logistics. This removes the need to dispose of used fuel,” Marshall says. “With the test’s successful conclusion, the laser is ready for affordable, low-risk weapons applications that meet the warfighter’s needs.”
The chemical laser in the demonstration is a testbed similar to the laser device designed for the Advanced Tactical Laser, a major U.S. Department of Defense technology project, Air Force officials say. It involves an Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft that carries the laser, which is intended to destroy, damage, or disable ground targets with surgical precision and cause little, if any, collateral damage.
The test was at the directorate’s Davis Advanced Laser facility where the regenerated fuels were produced in miniaturized electrochemical reactions designed to collect the waste products of laser operations and convert them to fresh fuel.
Boeing Directed Energy Systems in Canoga Park, Calif., is the prime contractor for the Advanced Tactical Laser.