Northrop Grumman delivers rugged mini-laser weapon to US government
Northrop Grumman has delivered a miniaturized high-energy laser, called the Phantom, to the US government that points to future laser weapons that are not only powerful, but small and rugged enough for field combat.
Lasers are very attractive to the military as a potential game changer with their ability to engage targets at the speed of light at a cost of a dollar a shot. Until recently, most of the attention has been on the laser beam itself – how to make it powerful enough to be effective, how to lock on target, and how to control the beam over long distances.
However, there is another side to such weapons that the Phantom addresses. No matter how powerful or effective it is, a laser weapon isn't of any use to anyone if it's some gigantic, delicate Frankenstein's monster of a setup that looks like a cross between an old-fashioned radio's innards and a Meccano set and weighs several tonnes.
The Phantom's 10-kW output isn't much to write home about compared to Lockheed Martin's latest 300-kW weapon, but does have the advantage of filling only 12 ft³ (0.3 m³) and weighing less than 200 lb (90 kg), making it light and compact enough for two people to lift and install. It's also rugged enough to put up with rough handling.
The Phantom isn't a complete laser weapon, but a laser generator. It's more of a plug-in component. To turn it into a proper weapon system, it needs to be hooked up to a power supply as well as the targeting and focusing optics to put the beam on target.
The tricky bit now is to make small rugged lasers more powerful and the powerful lasers smaller and more rugged. When they meet in the middle, you've got a real laser weapon.
"By miniaturizing this advanced capability, we are expanding the reach of our technology and continuing to lead the way in high-energy lasers," says Robert Fleming, vice president and general manager, strategic space systems. "Northrop Grumman is using its expertise in directed energy to deliver an extremely compact, lightweight and efficient laser for the war fighter."
Source: Northrop Grumman