U.S. Army RELIing on Lockheed Martin Laser System
To see the light on Lockheed Martin’s technology for the Army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), simply think about Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The cover art for the iconic 1970s album depicts multi-colored waves of light entering a prism and coming out as a single beam.
While the band members may have been ahead of their time musically, it’s unlikely they knew their album art offered a conceptual illustration of the cutting edge technology being used for a first-of-its-kind high power fiber laser-based system suitable for military applications.
The Army Space and Missile Defense Command recently awarded Lockheed Martin a $14 million contract to design, develop, build and test a system for its RELI program. Lockheed Martin Aculight, part of MS2’s Ship and Aviation Systems laser systems business based outside of Seattle, is utilizing Spectral Beam Combining to produce the needed high power beam.
“It’s like an inverse prism,” said John Wojnar, director of business development for the laser systems business, in an article in the September issue of Defense Technology International. “Lasers with slightly different wavelengths go into the combiner and come out as a single beam.”
The result is a fiber laser system capable of producing the 100 kilowatts or more of high quality power needed for a broad range of military “speed-of-light” defensive applications on air, land and sea platforms.
A fiber laser typically requires less power and is more compact than other types of lasers. Optical fibers produce near perfect quality beams and confine the light within the fiber’s glass structure without mirrors or other optics that can become misaligned. This helps account for the system’s small size and ability to generate high power, while using less electricity. For its RELI system, Lockheed Martin is leveraging recent advances in fiber laser technology, such as reduced power requirements, high beam quality and improved heat management.
The Army contract includes options for the next six years and if exercised, would increase the contract's value to $59 million.
For more information on RELI and Lockheed Martin’s laser business click on the following links: