REDONDO BEACH, Calif., May 6, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Space Technology sector has received a U.S. Air Force contract for the first phase of a three-year program to develop the Strategic Illuminator Laser, or SILL -- a four-kilowatt-class, solid-state, pulsed laser with excellent beam quality. The Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency is providing the funding under a contract managed by the Air Force.
"The SILL will provide the Missile Defense Agency with a higher-power illuminator laser, which is a critical component of laser systems such as the Airborne Laser, as well as future space-based programs," said Jackie Gish, director of DE Technology at Northrop Grumman Space Technology. Now being built, the Airborne Laser (ABL) will use a megawatt-class chemical laser, mounted in a Boeing 747-400F airplane, to destroy enemy missiles during the boost phase.
"The SILL's higher power as well as its excellent beam quality will yield an enhancement in range capability over existing illuminators. It also marks an important step on the path toward a solid-state laser for use in space," added Gish.
Three companies received four-month, Phase 1 contract awards to assess technical approaches and produce a conceptual design for the SILL. At the end of Phase 1, a single contractor will be selected for Phases 2 and 3 of the program (approximately 18 and 14 months, respectively). The third phase will culminate in 2006 with delivery to the government of a rugged, flight-qualifiable brassboard laser with a development path for space applications.
Execution of the SILL program will build on Northrop Grumman's extensive experience in developing and delivering high-power solid-state lasers with near-diffraction-limited beam quality, which results in more energy delivered on target. It has developed high-power solid-state lasers for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force and various other government and commercial enterprises.
The company delivered a flight-qualified Beacon Illuminator, containing two kilowatt-class solid-state lasers, to the ABL program in 2002. In December, Northrop Grumman won a Joint Technology Office contract to develop the high-power, solid-state laser, a program that will result in demonstration at the end of 2004 of a 25-kilowatt electric-powered laser. Northrop Grumman also specializes in fully militarized, lower-power lasers and has produced and fielded more than 25,000 laser systems, including several that have flown in space.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology has more than 30 years experience in the development of high-energy lasers, both solid-state and chemical.
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