Northrop Grumman demonstrates anti-cruise missile laser weapon

Damage from Gamma slab laser to outer cover of representative cruise missile threat from Gamma. Courtesy Northrop Grumman

Redondo Beach, CA--Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) tested fired the first of its Firstrike family of high-energy, solid-state lasers, demonstrating that it could burn through the skin and critical components of a target drone used to simulate anti-ship cruise missile threats to U.S. Navy ships.

"Gamma has equaled or exceeded the performance we achieved in previous slab lasers, but the real advancement here is in packaging and ruggedization for operations in real-world military platforms," said Steve Hixson, vice president of advanced concepts, space and directed energy systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"The Gamma demonstrator is built in a form factor that implements the size and weight reduction goals of the Firstrike design, which cuts the weight of the finished laser chain to 500 pounds and shrinks the volume to 23 inches by 40 inches by 12 inches," said Dan Wildt, vice president, directed energy systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The Firestrike laser, announced in 2008, forms the backbone near-term laser weapon systems from Northrop Grumman.
 
Gamma implements a significant reduction in the number of internal optical components, while new mounting techniques eliminate sensitivity to vibrations. Key portions of the Gamma laser have already been subjected to vibration, shock and thermal testing to validate that these improvements have achieved design goals. The Gamma demonstrator is a single "chain" or building block that is designed to be combined with other chains to create laser systems of greater power, as was demonstrated in Northrop Grumman's 105 kW Joint High Power Solid State Laser.

The lethality testing used a single Gamma chain at short distance in a way that simulated the effects that a laser weapon of several chains aboard a Navy ship could achieve at a range of several miles. The components used in the test included the skin of a surplus BQM-74 drone and other parts configured to represent critical internal components. The BQM-74 was formerly produced by Northrop Grumman for the Navy as a representative cruise missile threat and used for testing defensive systems.


Gamma slab laser from Northrup Grumman
Gamma slab laser from Northrup Grumman

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