Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated, creating a need for rapid and effective response to this growing category of threats. High power lasers can provide a solution to this challenge, as they harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats. Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage. For consideration as a weapon system on today’s air assets though, these laser weapon systems must be lighter and more compact than the state-of-the-art has produced.

High-Power Laser Weapon System By DARPA High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)USA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) team is now developing a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats.

DARPA recently completed laboratory testing of a fundamental building block for HELLADS, a single laser module that successfully demonstrated the ability to achieve high power and beam quality from a significantly lighter and smaller laser.

“Successful testing of the single laser module is a major accomplishment,” said Richard Bagnell, DARPA’s HELLADS program manager. “Advances in diodes, cooling, lightweight electronics, pumps, optics, and metal structures have made shrinking the size and weight possible without losing laser effectiveness.”

The program now enters the final development phase where a second laser module will be built and combined with the first module to generate 150 kW of power. The goal is to have the 150 kW laser weapon completed by the end of 2012.

Source: DARPA