France funding combat laser for wing mounted pod for French Dassault Rafale fighter

Quantel Laser (Paris, France) has been awarded a $7-million, multi-year contract by a Tier 1 defense contractor to supply lasers to be built into a wing-mounted fighter aircraft pod, such as on the French Dassault Rafale fighter. The military aircraft lasers will provide critical telemetry as well as target designation functions.

Quantel designs and manufactures high-power, solid-state lasers for scientific, industrial, military, and medical applications. This contract covers a specific production series of lasers and follows Quantel’s successful development of the compact, ruggedized laser source as well as delivery of several earlier production runs.

This Quantel Laser Diodes video shows a high energy QCW laser diode array operating at 120 Hz that can provide up to 150 kW peak power of infrared energy. Maximum average power is 10 kW.

There is a lot of work by the USA, China, Russia, India and others on combat lasers for planes, trucks, ships and other vehicles.

The General Atomics 150-kw Hellads (high energy laser) will be tested this summer at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico The third generation solid state laser is to be demonstrated in 2018 on the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer that now serves as the U.S. Navy’s ship-defense test vessel at Port Hueneme in California.

The Gen 3 (third generation laser) has increased electrical-to-optical efficiency, improved beam quality and further reduced size and weight.

The module includes high-power-density lithium-ion batteries, liquid cooling for the laser and batteries, one or more laser unit cells and optics to clean up and stabilize the beam before it enters the platform-specific beam-director telescope, says Davis.

The unit cell is a laser oscillator that produces a single 75-kw beam. Modules can be ganged together to produce a 150- or 300-kw beam.

The next step is a 120-kw laser, planned for testing in the early 2020s, and for which GA-ASI plans to propose the Gen 3 system. The Air Force Research Laboratory, meanwhile, is interested in a podded laser weapon, although there is no formal program yet.

Davis says the Gen 3’s size enables an airborne laser module in the 150-kw range to be carried by GA-ASI’s Avenger unmanned aircraft. The UAV has sufficient onboard power to recharge the module’s batteries in flight.

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is targeting demonstrating a 100+kw combat laser on a fighter by 2022. The airforce wants to integrate combat laser systems into future fighters in the 2030+.

Initially the combat lasers will be in external pod that attach to the fighter.

The General Atomics HELLADS laser, which will soon shift from a DARPA experiment to a DARPA-Air Force Research Lab joint venture. “That was a major investment on the part of DARPA,” Hardy said. “It’s the first time anybody’s shown you can make a 150-kW-class electric laser.

A typical modern fighter like the F-16 can carry at most six air-to-air missiles. Shoot six times, hit or miss, and it’s back to base to re-arm. By contrast, said Gunzinger, a laser-armed aircraft could just head back to the tanker. “Instead of landing to reload, air refueling would ‘reload’ [laser]-equipped aircraft in flight,” he said. They could keep fighting until the pilot couldn’t take it any more — or, if unmanned, for longer than any human could endure.

Special Operations Command wants a laser cannon on future AC-130s.

AC130J models could have lasers. The first two AC130J aircraft will not have the 105mm gun installed. That’ll have to be retrofitted later. The third AC10J AFSOC will simply pull the cannon off retiring AC130 aircraft and install them on the Js. The last seven J-models may carry a laser weapon according to Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold.

The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features. It contains an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics. The aircraft is capable of extremely accurate navigation due to the fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation systems and global positioning system.

The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging SOF fleet of 37 AC-130H/U/W gunships. AC-130 gunships have an extensive combat history dating to back to Vietnam where gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions.

The first AC-130J aircraft is scheduled to begin developmental test and evaluation in January 2014. The first squadron will be located at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., while other locations are to be determined. Initial operational capacity is expected in fiscal 2017 and the last delivery is scheduled for fiscal 2021.

SOURCES – Breaking Defense, Air force,, Quantel, Laser Focus World, youtube