Boeing fires new thin-disk laser at high average power and beam quality

June 4, 2008--The Boeing Company (St. Louis, Mo.) has developed and fabricated a laser system of a new "thin-disk" design intended for use as a tactical weapon, and has fired the laser system repeatedly in recent tests, achieving what it says is the highest known simultaneous power, beam quality, and run time for any solid-state laser to date.

June 4, 2008--The Boeing Company (St. Louis, Mo.) has developed and fabricated a laser system of a new "thin-disk" design intended for use as a tactical weapon, and has fired the laser system repeatedly in recent tests, achieving what it says is the highest known simultaneous power, beam quality, and run time for any solid-state laser to date.

In each laser firing at Boeing's facility in West Hills, California, the laser achieved power levels of greater than 25 kilowatts for multisecond durations, with a measured beam quality that Boeing says is good enough for a tactical weapon. The Boeing laser integrates multiple thin-disk lasers into a single system. Boeing believes that through its recent tests, its laser team has proven that its design could be scaled to a 100-kilowatt-class system based on the same architecture and technology.

"Solid-state lasers will revolutionize the battlefield by giving the warfighter an ultra-precision engagement capability that can dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

The thin-disk laser is an initiative to demonstrate that solid-state laser technologies are now ready to move out of the laboratory and into full development as weapon systems. Solid-state lasers are powered by electricity, making them highly mobile and supportable on the battlefield; a competing technology--chemical lasers--can also be highly mobile, but the difficulty of handling large amounts of chemicals makes them less easy to support.

The thin-disk laser represents the most electrically efficient solid-state laser technology known, says Boeing. Its thin-disk system is designed to meet the rapid-fire, rapid-retargeting requirements of area-defense, anti-missile, and anti-mortar tactical high-energy laser systems. Boeing also describes it as ideal for non-lethal, ultra-precision strike missions urgently needed by warfighters in war zones.

Boeing's approach incorporates a series of commercial off-the-shelf, state-of-the-art lasers used in the automotive industry. These industrial lasers have demonstrated exceedingly high reliability, supportability and maintainability. Boeing's approach mimics that of some of the most-successful commercial laser vendors, who often use already-developed commercial laser sources as pump sources for their solid-state lasers.

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