250-300 kW Combat Lasers Now and Scaling to Megawatts

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) and Boeing are working together to scale 100 kW-class lasers to 250 kW-class High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon system to they can shoot down missiles and not just drones.

The HEL weapon system will combine GA-EMS’ scalable distributed gain laser technology, HELLi-ion battery systems and integrated thermal management with Boeing’s beam director and precision acquisition, tracking and pointing (ATP) software.

Current fiber laser technology could be scaled to 300 kilowatts. The new system will use solid-state laser technology and liquid cooling. Cooling large lasers are a huge part of the problem for scaling to higher power levels. The liquid cooling and the solid-state components will have the same reaction to light.

The cooling liquid flows through channels in the solid-state laser material. The cooling liquid has an exact match for its refractive index. This prevents the lasers from generating heat or sending part of the laser energy where it should not go.

In 2015, the General Atomics 150 kilowatt laser had an energy density of 4 kilograms per kilowatt. This meant the 150 kW laser system weighed 600 kilograms. Having a lighter system means you can pack more power.

It seems like the modular liquid cooled solid state laser systems could scale into the megawatt power range.

SOURCES – General Atomics
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

11 thoughts on “250-300 kW Combat Lasers Now and Scaling to Megawatts”

  1. Ground lasers are mainly good for defense, which is fine. But wars are won by offense. Until they can be made practical on an aircraft, they will be 95% or more defensive weapons.

  2. You could get a liquid that worked as a coolant and allowed you to tune the refractive index. You have two suitable, compatible, substances and mix them to get the right value.
    Depending on the index of the lasing material, it would be somewhere between trivial and impossible. Presumably the numbers work out in this case.

    Getting the values to change in step with each other over a decent temperature range? That might be a lot harder.

  3. Yes. Money poured into high powered lasers with emphasis on light weight and efficiency has a host of possible space uses.

    Much as the flexible optics stuff developed for the 1980s Star Wars program results in the modern explosion of telescope technology.

  4. I vaguely recall earlier articles where the nominal rating is the "muzzle energy" of the laser as it leaves the canon.

    So a fair bit less than the input power, but more than deposited on target (depending on range, atmospheric conditions, outgassing from target, etc.)

  5. That liquid cooling system where the liquid has the exact same refractive index as the laser materiel, I have my doubts about that. It would seem like a very esoteric liquid that you would have to refill.

    Now, if it were technically possible to engineer the system so that you used water instead, that would be a great gain for the usability of the system….

  6. If nothing else the technologies developed for these weapons could be dual purposed for space propulsion.

  7. What about range ?
    Tech to improve optics and precision to use multiple lasers in parallel is equally important to be able to deposit the energy long range into a target. Especially, when the systems are used in the lower atmosphere. Space is easier.

  8. Except that you can't get a 7.5 gram bullet at light speed. Because the mass increases to infinity as you reach C.

    Resulting in
    1.. The impact energy will be enough that you, the shooter, would be killed by the energy given off at impact.
    2.. Actually, you would have already died from the recoil.

  9. A 9mm slug at 7.5 grams going at C would give you 337,033,192,026,306.6 Joules, or .08 megatons of energy.

    Now if I could just find a pistol that would give me that performance.

  10. Is the nominal rating at the power source or deposited on target? If the latter, how does it compare with (say) a 9mm projectile, that is, how long must the spot linger on a target to deposit the same amount of energy as a single pistol shot?

    I expect that these lasers are still heat rays, as opposed to pulse lasers like Nyrath describes in his Atomic Rockets website. Am I off track?

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