Military Applications of Lasers

Authored by: Liang Dong , Bryce Samson

Fiber Lasers

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781498725545
eBook ISBN: 9781315370521
Adobe ISBN:

10.1201/9781315370521-19

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Abstract

Lasers have been widely used in military applications for several decades. The pace of adoption has increased in the past two decades. The widespread use of laser-guided precision munitions since the early 1990s has put laser technologies in the forefront of war fighting. The adoption of laser technologies by the military is largely driven by new capabilities, meeting critical needs, cost benefits, and maturity of laser technologies. Being at a much higher frequency than microwave and radio waves, a laser provides straight-line propagation with much smaller divergence and a much better spatial resolution for sensor applications. Lasers also propagate further in water at green wavelengths (see Figure 17.1), and provide molecule-specific detection in sensors and immunity to electromagnetic interference. Direct energy weapon (DEW) systems have been under research and development for the past several decades, primarily motivated by speed of light delivery, low cost of operation, and simpler logistical support without the need for ammunition. These systems require powers from tens of kilowatts to many megawatts. With the rapid development of diode-pumped solid-state lasers (SSLs) in the past two decades and fiber lasers in the past decade, the deployment of practical systems for tactical applications such as aerial defense against mortars, small rockets, drones, and boats is becoming a reality. In 2014, we saw the first operational deployment of a fiber-laser-based laser weapons system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf for combat operations. It is claimed that the system can shoot down a small drone for about $1 worth of electricity.

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