These Revolutionary Optics Could Make Battlefield Lasers a Reality

Illustration for article titled These Revolutionary Optics Could Make Battlefield Lasers a Reality

Weapons that shoot light rather than bullets are quickly becoming a reality, however their huge bulk and even larger energy consumption still demand that they be mounted on vehicles such as battleships and tractor trailers. But thanks to this newly developed optics system from the US Army Research Lab, tomorrow's battlefields could soon be crowded with light guns.


The 21-element optical phased array, known as the Adaptive Phase Coherent Fiber Laser Array system, has been in development for more than a decade as part of DARPA's Excalibur program, which aims to deploy scalable laser weapons to the battlefield using coherent optical phased array technology. This technology uses a high-speed control algorithm called "Stochastic Parallel Gradient Descent," which allows multiple smaller apertures to generate laser beams, then combine them into a larger, more powerful unified beam like the one on the Death Star that destroyed Alderaan.

Illustration for article titled These Revolutionary Optics Could Make Battlefield Lasers a Reality

And thanks to the ARL's work, these beams will be far less subject to physical turbulence and atmospheric interference than the current generation of weapons. What's more, it should also shrink the size, weight, and cost of future weapons systems without reducing their power. This could eventually mean ray guns, or at least 100 KW systems far smaller and lighter than the current HEL MD. It also could mean a new class of laser-based battlefield communications, a new means of missile and drone defense for ground troops, or new weapons for our own UAS fleet. The possibilities are endless. [Defense Talk]



Chris Knight: As you know, Mitch and I were working on the cyanide system. Well, earlier today it ate itself. But, these little set-backs are just what we need to take a giant step forward. Right, Kent? Needless to say, I was a little despondent about the melt down, but then, in the midst of my preparations for hari kiri, it came to me. It is possible to synthesize excited bromide in an argon matrix. Yes, it's an excimer frozen in its excited state.

Bodie: Th... That's impossible.

Chris Knight: It's a chemical laser but in solid, not gaseous, form. Put simply, in deference to you, Kent, it's like lasing a stick of dynamite. As soon as we apply a field, we couple to a state that is radiatively coupled to the ground state. I figure we can extract at least ten to the twenty-first photons per cubic centimeter which will give one kilojoule per cubic centimeter at 600 nanometers, or, one megajoule per liter

Great to see science fiction turn into science...