Air Force getting bids for defensive lasers on fighter jets

The US Air Force (USAF) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) related to its efforts to field a laser-based self-protection system for its tactical combat aircraft.

The laser will be housed in a supersonic flight-capable pod to be developed under the Laser Pod Research and Development (LPRD) contract.

The RFP, posted by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate, Laser Division (AFRL/RDL) on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website on 5 January, seeks research proposals for the service’s Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) project, which is geared at integrating a defensive laser weapon aboard current and future fighter-sized aircraft.

The objective of LANCE is to perform research and development activities necessary to design, fabricate, and deliver a reliable, ruggedised high-power laser (with excellent beam quality and compact design) for integration within an aerodynamic integrating structure for use during flight testing on tactical aircraft for self-defence research during Phase II of the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD)

High-power laser capabilities will be demonstrated during Phase II of the SHiELD ATD. The specific objectives of the laser subsystem are to:
1) develop/enhance innovative state-of-the-art laser designs, fabrication techniques, and operating approaches;
2) design/build a compact, ruggedized high-power laser that minimizes beam quality degradation under the stressing flight conditions of high performance tactical aircraft;
3) quantify performance of the subsystem to include key laser parameters (e.g. laser output power, electrical-to-optical efficiency, power stability, beam jitter, power in the bucket) under representative flight conditions; and
4) support integration of the laser subsystem within SHiELD’s aerodynamic integrated structure while maintaining laser performance during test and demonstration.

Successful execution requires:
 Develop, design, build, and test a high-power laser capable of fulfilling technical objectives, which include:
o Anticipated laser Size, Weight and Power (SWAP) that meets allocated size and weight limits for the SHiELD aerodynamic integrated pod-like structure.
o Architecture compatible with integration and operation at altitude with minimum amount of environmental conditioning or protection (thermal, atmospheric pressure).
o Architecture compatible with operation during aircraft tactical maneuvers (orientation to g-load, level of sustained g-load, vibration).
o Technologies expected to be matureable to technology readiness level (TRL) 6 or higher by 2021.

 Detailed identification of the crucial laser subsystem components selected for design, based on:
o Coupled understanding and modeling of structural, mechanical, electrical, optical, and thermal environment within the laser subsystem.
o Analysis techniques following a structured methodology capable of accurately predicting laser system performance.
o Analysis of crucial components to determine points during operation when components are most vulnerable and essential to system performance.