“The [combat laser] technologies now exist,” said Paul Shattuck, company director for Directed Energy Systems. “They can be packaged into a size, weight, power and thermal which can be fit onto relevant tactical platforms, whether it’s a ship, whether it’s a ground vehicle or whether it’s an airborne platform.
It is no longer a technological problem to make laser weapons work. It’s one of integration at the service level.
Asked flatly if the services came to them tomorrow and asked for a laser weapon in the 30 KW range to be delivered, the two men, along with Robert Afzal, a senior fellow with Laser and Sensor Systems, agreed they could produce a viable weapon for fielding.
That doesn’t mean that giant city-melting lasers are on their way. Right now, the weapons are limited to the 15-30 KW scale; going much further requires figuring out how to deal with atmospheric interference, an issue which becomes more complicated with weapons mounted on airborne systems.
But a 30 KW weapon can still bore a hole through a two inch piece of steel in seconds.
Modular lasers can scale in power like computer servers being added to a rack
A number of advancements in recent years have allowed the company to move forward with laser technology, but the biggest one is the movement in fiber-laser technology, which is largely driven from developments in the commercial sector.
The men described the technology as similar to a rack of servers. Once you figure out how to connect them all, you can add more power by adding another server. The same is true for the laser weapons: you add more power slots into the rack and increase its power.
Lockheed is on track to deliver a 60 KW laser for the Army by the end of the year, known as the RELY program, said Afzal, saying “we’re underway. So we’re building hardware right now and we’re beginning the integration.”
Meanwhile, the Navy is using an advanced laser weapon aboard the Afloat Forward Staging Base Ponce, which has been deployed to the Gulf.
SOURCES – Defense News