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Firestrike High Power Solid State Laser Fires 105kW Beam

Northrop Grumman has claimed a world record achieved by its high-power solid state laser, firing over 105 kilowatts (kW) laser beams from its scalable Firestrike laser building blocks. The test was performed as part of the final demonstration milestone of the U.S. military's Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program (Phase 3). A government team reviewed results of the demonstration during a System Test Data Review held Feb. 10 at Northrop Grumman's Directed Energy Production Facility in Redondo Beach, Calif.

The achievements included turn-on time of less than one second and continuous operating time of five minutes, with very good efficiency and beam quality. Leading to this achievement, Northrop Grumman reported last year reaching a JHPSSL Phase 3 power level of 15.3kW in March and a power level of 30kW in September.

"This achievement is particularly important because the 100kW threshold has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for 'weapons grade' power levels for high-energy lasers." said Dan Wildt, vice president of Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.  "In fact, many militarily useful effects can be achieved by laser weapons of 25kW or 50 kW, provided this energy is transmitted with good beam quality, as our system does. With this milestone, we have far exceeded those needs." he added. "Our modular JHPSSL design makes it straightforward to scale laser weapon systems to mission-required power levels for a variety of uses, to include force protection and precision strike missions for air-, sea- and land-based platforms," said Wildt. "Power scaling will be one of the game-changing features of high-energy lasers because it allows graduated responses by U.S. military services appropriate for whatever level of threat they may face. Threats vary, and so should the response." he added. Read more...

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According to Jay Marmo, Northrop Grumman's JHPSSL program manager, the Firestrike's scalable, building block approach could take more challenging missions that require well above 100 kW of good beam quality laser power. For building blocks, the company utilizes "laser amplifier chains," each producing approximately15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0. The basic, stackable system can accommodate eight modules. According to Jay Marmo, adding the eighth chain will increase laser power to 120kW.  

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 the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command / Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Ala. (Back)