Saturday, October 9, 2010

High-power fiber laser for defensive military applications is aim of Army research contract to Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin Corp. is announcing further details today on a U.S. military contract awarded last July to design and manufacture a high-power fiber laser suitable for military laser weapons. The program, called the Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), calls for laser experts at the Lockheed Martin Aculight facility in Bothell, Wash., to develop a 100-kilowatt fiber laser for military defensive applications on aircraft, land vehicles, and surface warships.

A fiber laser uses optical fiber to produce near-perfect-quality beams and confine the light within the glass structure of the fiber without mirrors or other optics that can become misaligned. This helps to account for the system's small size and ability to generate high power, while using relatively low amounts of electricity.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., awarded a $14.7 million six-year contract to Lockheed Martin last July, which with options ultimately could be worth as much as $59 million, Lockheed Martin officials say. At the same time the Army also awarded a $9.1 million contract to the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif., as part of the RELI program.

Army Space Missile Defense Command is awarding the contracts also on behalf of the DOD High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL JTO), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). DOD researchers want Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to develop high-power weapons-grade lasers with better than 30 percent efficiency, with beams near diffraction limited quality with power greater than 25 kilowatts with run times that meet military mission requirements.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will demonstrate and test the lasers they develop at the DOD High-Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

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