Northrop Grumman illuminator laser lights up in a big way

Oct. 13, 2006
October 13, 2006, Redondo Beach, CA--A high-power pulsed diode-pumped solid-state illuminator laser developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation met all technical performance requirements, according to the company. The multikilowatt laser is one essential component of high-energy air and space laser-weapon systems under development.

October 13, 2006, Redondo Beach, CA--A high-power pulsed diode-pumped solid-state illuminator laser developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation met all technical performance requirements, according to the company. The multikilowatt laser is one essential component of high-energy air and space laser-weapon systems under development.

The Strategic Illuminator Laser (SILL) demonstrated multikilowatt-class average output power, operating at 5 kHz with very high beam quality for a run time of five minutes, according to Northrop Grumman. These achievements met all the technology goals of the SILL Phase 2 demonstration program. The SILL program is funded by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (Washington, DC).

In laser-weapon systems, illuminator lasers are used in conjunction with tracking sensors to help point the laser weapon at the target. In addition, they operate along with wavefront sensors and adaptive optics to help clean up distortion in the laser beam caused by atmospheric turbulence (as well as by thermal and other effects within the weapon's optical system) so that the beam can be focused to a smaller spot at the target.

Northrop Grumman won the SILL risk reduction, design and demonstration Phase 2 contract in 2004; in late 2005 it was awarded a Phase 3 contract, which includes the fabrication and test of a brassboard device (a "brassboard" is suitable for field testing, unlike a "breadboard," which is usually an earlier prototype confined to the lab). The SILL brassboard design will be significantly smaller and lighter than current high-power illuminator systems. It is also designed to withstand environmental temperatures from -50°C to +50°C.

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