REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 25, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- Compact laser weapons powerful enough to perform many basic military missions are getting closer to accompanying U.S. troops wherever they go due to rapid advancements Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) is making in high-energy, solid-state lasers, exemplified by a company-funded laser weapon named Vesta announced today.
Expected to greatly shorten the timeline for lasers to go from the laboratory onto the battlefield, Vesta's critical features are high power, excellent beam quality, and long run time -- all packaged into a compact laser device that represents significant reductions in size and in the weight of the laser from previous systems.
Beam quality refers to how well the beam can be focused, ultimately defining how much of the beam can be projected onto a target. Since it offers a groundbreaking combination of excellent beam quality and high power, Vesta can place an unprecedented level of power onto a targeted spot.
"With such superb beam quality, Vesta can be effective at a lower power level than what would otherwise be required for many major military missions," said Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "This new advancement in solid-state laser technology will serve as the building block for many future military systems."
Potential uses include force protection of fixed-site critical assets, ground maneuver forces, ships and aircraft as well as precision strike by manned and unmanned aircraft.
Detailing the technical advancements that have been built into Vesta, the company said the new laser weapon:
-- Demonstrated a "beam quality" or brightness of less than 1.3 times the theoretical diffraction limit. By comparison, a typical industrial laser for welding would have a beam quality exceeding 20. Weapon system applications typically seek beam qualities of 1.5 to 2. Beam qualities less than 1.5 for high-power lasers are considered outstanding. -- Operated at a power of 15 kilowatts continuous run time -- Is designed to operate at this power and beam quality level indefinitely -- even demonstrating more than 20 minutes of continuous operation with no degradation.
"For lasers to have military utility, they must not only have the required power, but they must also have excellent beam quality to allow the beam to be focused on targets at a distance," said Mike McVey, president of Directed Energy Systems business area. "To achieve this milestone, substantial progress was made in the key element of the laser -- the gain module."
McVey noted that Vesta's key building block, known as a gain module, is easily assembled and has reproducible performance of greater than 4 kW. The Vesta laser uses these gain modules to produce 15 kW. The combination of gain modules forms what the company calls amplifier chains, which are in turn building blocks for higher power lasers.
According to McVey, Vesta further serves to reduce risk for the company's work under the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) Phase 3 program, which is funded by the Army, High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office, Air Force and Navy. JHPSSL 3 has a goal of developing a solid-state laser system to reach the 100 kW power level and will use eight of these amplifier chains. The chain construct also facilitates providing various power levels for different applications, and high reliability through a graceful degradation design.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology has been developing and demonstrating high-energy laser weapon systems for more than 30 years, paving the way for the U.S. to incorporate them across all services, including ships, manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground vehicles.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.
The technical achievements behind Vesta are detailed in the fact sheet that follows.
Fact Sheet ---------- Vesta Northrop Grumman Space Technology Technical Achievements Vesta Goals Northrop Grumman Achievement Power Level greater than 12.5 kW 15 kW, operating in steady state (continuous wave) Run Time -- 300 seconds 1400 seconds duration Significance: The company's laser demonstrator could have operated much longer. 'Run time' measures how long the laser can fire. More run time can be leveraged to enable a single laser to attack more targets in a large attack or more lase time on an individual target, increasing lethality substantially. Beam Quality -- 1.5 Demonstrated excellent beam quality of less than 1.3 times the diffraction limit at 15 kW power level and run time of 1400 seconds Significance: Beam quality refers to how well the beam can be focused, ultimately defining how much of the beam can be projected onto a target. A perfect laser beam has a beam quality of "1." By comparison, a typical industrial laser for welding would have a beam quality exceeding 20. Weapon system applications typically seek beam qualities of 1.5 to 2. Beam qualities less than 1.5 for high power lasers are considered outstanding.
CONTACT: Bob Bishop Northrop Grumman Space Technology 310-812-5227 Cell: 310-251-0261 firstname.lastname@example.org