DARPA's compact high-power laser program completes key milestone

July 4, 2011

Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated, creating a need for rapid and effective response to this growing category of threats. A potential solution for countering these threats is high-powered lasers, which can harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats. But these lasers need to be lighter and require less space than current state-of-the-art for use on many of today’s air assets. The goal of DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats.

DARPA recently completed laboratory testing of a fundamental building block for HELLADS, a single laser module that successfully demonstrated the ability to achieve high power and beam quality from a significantly lighter and smaller laser.

“Successful testing of the single laser module is a major accomplishment,” said Richard Bagnell, DARPA’s HELLADS program manager. “Advances in diodes, cooling, lightweight electronics, pumps, optics, and metal structures have made shrinking the size and weight possible without losing laser effectiveness.”

The program now enters the final development phase where a second laser module will be built and combined with the first module to generate 150 kW of power. The goal is to have the 150 kW laser completed by the end of 2012.

Following the final development phase, plans call for the to be transported to White Sands Missile Range in the early-2013 timeframe for ground testing against rockets, mortars, surface-to-air missiles and to conduct simulated air-to-ground offensive missions.

DARPA is also in discussion with the Air Force about transitioning the technology to conduct an airborne demonstration following the ground testing phase.

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2011
What kind of damage can a 150 kw laser do?
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2011
Well, a nice idea. But now everybody else will develop a surface to air laser cannon on a truck. And th camouflage color of vehicles would be replaced with road sign paint, which sends the light right back at you.

Later they will have bazooka size lasers, too.
not rated yet Jul 05, 2011
What kind of damage can a 150 kw laser do?

Depends on what it hits.

If it hits a reflective surface: not much
If it hits a rotating target: not much
If it hits a target with an ablative surface: not much
If it hits a traget where the warhead is coverd with a minimum of lead (or other protective) housing: not much
If it needs to traverse a cloud or heavy rain before hitting the target: not much

If it hits a flimsy, straight flying, well absorbing, highly explosive, non-protected target in fair weather: Then it could cause enough damage to deflect/destroy it.
not rated yet Jul 11, 2011
It's also more than enough power to burn skin or cause blindness, likely permanent. Depending on the duration and collimation of the beam, you could burn through a skull and fry a small part of the brain before the target had the time to feel pain and react

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