Northrop Grumman will help the U.S. Air Force mature its plans to use directed energy systems for self-protection on current and future aircraft under a contract awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory.
The laser weapon will be housed in a pod attached to a fighter-sized aircraft. The system will be tested on a tactical aircraft flying at speeds up to supersonic. AFRL expects to begin flight testing the integrated system by 2019.
“Our Northrop Grumman-led team is integrating an innovative beam director with proven beam control technologies to help the Air Force define and successfully demonstrate a laser weapon capability for current and next generation aircraft,” said W. Mark Skinner, vice president, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
The beam control system characterizes the flight environment for atmospheric disturbances that could distort the laser beam, acquires and tracks incoming targets, determines an aim point for the laser, then “shapes” and focuses the outgoing beam on the target, added Skinner.
Northrop Grumman is developing the SHiELD beam control system under a segment of the ATD program known as SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects, or STRAFE.
AFRL will integrate STRAFE beam control system with a laser source, and power and cooling systems developed for the SHiELD ATD.