Boeing wins US Navy contract to develop free electron laser

April 15, 2009--The Boeing Company (West Hills, CA) has been awarded a U.S. Navy contract to develop the Free Electron Laser (FEL) weapon system, which promises to transform naval warfare in the next decade. The new system aims to provide an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new threats such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles.

Apr 16th, 2009

April 15, 2009--The Boeing Company (West Hills, CA, NYSE: BA) has been awarded a U.S. Navy contract to develop the Free Electron Laser (FEL) weapon system, which promises to transform naval warfare in the next decade. The system aims to provide an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new threats such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles.

"This contract award is significant because it will be a cornerstone of the Navy's plan to incorporate directed energy systems into its future all-electric ship architecture," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

FELs are capable of achieving the megawatt power the Navy requires for ship defense. They operate by passing a beam of high-energy electrons through a series of powerful magnetic fields, causing the intense emission of laser light.

The contract is valued at up to $163 million, with an initial task order of $6.9 million. Under the task order, awarded by the Office of Naval Research, Boeing will complete the preliminary design of the electric-powered Free Electron Laser, the key step toward building a FEL prototype for realistic tests at sea. Boeing will partner with U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, academia and industry partners to design the laser.

"Boeing has researched free-electron lasers since the early 1980s, and we believe this technology is now ready to move from the laboratory to a prototype suitable for testing," said Ed Pogue, Boeing FEL program manager. "The Free Electron Laser program will enable U.S. Navy ships to deliver nonlethal or lethal effects on a target with unprecedented speed, precision and power and minimal collateral damage."

"We will bring the best of Boeing to bear on this challenge by combining personnel from Boeing Research & Technology and Boeing Directed Energy Systems to form a single team," said Matthew Ganz, vice president and general manager of Boeing Research & Technology.

Boeing has developed high-energy laser systems for a variety of warfighter applications. These systems include the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator, Laser Avenger, the Re-deployable High Energy Laser System and the Tactical Relay Mirror System.

For more information see Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems website.

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com, for Laser Focus World.

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