Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
Boeing Co.’s Directed Energy Systems division in Albuquerque has developed a solid-state laser system that eventually could be used by the U.S. military to destroy IEDs, shoot down rockets and take out drones.
“Our team has shown that we have the necessary power, the beam quality and the efficiency to deliver such a system to the battlefield,” said Michael Rinn, the Directed Energy Systems division’s vice president and program director.
The company said a recent demonstration here of its “thin disk laser system” – which integrates a series of high-power industrial lasers to generate one concentrated, high-energy beam – exceeded the Defense Department’s technical requirements for potential use in weapons systems.
The new system was developed in part through a $6 million contract under the DOD’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative. That program aims to design new solid-state lasers to replace chemical-based ones, which can be more complicated to deploy.
“Chemical lasers involve hard-to-handle chemicals and require cumbersome procedures for soldiers, whereas the ones under development are closed-loop, all-electronic systems, making them more mobile and supportable on the battlefield,” Rinn said.
Boeing will now seek DOD funding to package the laser system into a design that can be mounted on weapons such as a conventional deck gun on a Navy warship.
“This is still lab technology for now, so we hope to get government funding to take it forward,” Rinn said. “It remains to be seen if the Army picks this over other solid-state lasers being developed.”
Rinn said the new system meets the test of achieving high brightness while simultaneously remaining efficient at higher power.
The technology basically combines individual, commercial lasers used by industry to create a much more powerful beam that can be applied for weapon use, Rinn said.
Boeing worked to retain the reliability and efficiency demonstrated in the original laser heads, which run continuously in industrial applications, while increasing the power and improving the beam. The company needed to reach 30 percent electricity-to-laser efficiency.
“We produced a 30 kilowatt laser with 90 kilowatts of electricity,” Rinn said. “Those are the military-utility-class numbers needed, and we achieved it.”