Reaching Weapons Grade, or More

Northrop Grumman announced yesterday that it has successfully produced a powerful light ray out of its modular electric laser design that measured more than 105 kilowatts, thereby setting a record and marking a significant milestone in the company’s efforts to scale up the power of solid-state lasers to have increasingly viable weapons applications. “This achievement is particularly important because the 100 kW threshold has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons-grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” said Dan Wildt, vice president of directed energy systems for Northrop’s Aerospace Systems sector. He noted, however, that “many militarily useful effects” can be achieved by lasers producing 25kW or 50 kW of power if the quality of the laser beam is good. Accordingly, he said the 105 kW milestone has “far exceeded those needs.” The company achieved the milestone as part of its phase 3 activities under the joint high power solid state laser program, which the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Office of the Secretary of Defense are sponsoring.