Military Review

New combat lasers from General Atomics


General Atomics and Boeing land-based laser concept

In the United States, work continues on the creation of a new laser weapons... One of the urgent tasks is the development of a combat laser with a radiation power of at least 300 kW and with the possibility of installation on different platforms. One of the participants in this program is General Atomics. She reportedly found the necessary solution and is now working on technical issues.

Customer wishes

In October last year, the Pentagon announced the launch of a new laser weapons development program aimed at creating advanced combat systems with enhanced performance. Several scientific organizations and three commercial companies with extensive experience in the laser industry were involved in the work.

It was noted that existing combat lasers, suitable for mounting on ground, surface or air platforms, develop a power of no more than 100-150 kW, which is far from always enough to solve a combat mission. In this regard, the new program requires the creation of a complex with a radiation power of up to 300 kW with the same installation and deployment capabilities. Such characteristics will allow the laser not only to fight against optics and light UAVs, but also to hit more complex air targets.

The contractors were given three years to carry out all the necessary work - the finished laser should appear in 2022. Then, the development of real combat systems for the ground forces, the air force and the navy can begin. In addition, by this time the concepts of such systems can be submitted by the companies participating in the project.

In December, the head of the topic "directed energy" Thomas Carr, in an interview with Breaking Defense, revealed some interesting details of the project. He pointed out that all the developers of new weapons have abandoned chemical lasers in favor of electrical systems due to their greater efficiency. It also became known that two out of three new projects use existing technologies, and the third provides for the development of new ideas.

New developments

One of the participants in the new program is General Atomics. Until recently, she worked on a promising laser independently, using her own developments and ideas. However, the company recently decided to join forces with another organization to continue work and create new designs.

One of GA's HEL type lasers

In October, GA announced the start of an initiative project being developed jointly with Boeing. The result will be a battle laser based on scalable distributed pumping technology. The finished product will have a power of 100 kW, but in the future it can be increased to 250 kW. At the same time, the laser will have limited dimensions, optimal heat release rates and other characteristics that will allow it to be used on different platforms.

Foreign media reported that distributed pumping technology will be used not only in a new joint project. Based on these ideas, a 300-kilowatt laser will be created as part of the Pentagon's program. The unification of the two projects on key technologies will provide obvious advantages. In particular, the joint project of GA and Boeing to create a laser of lower power will test the technology and find ways to scale it up to the requirements of the military. And after that, submit a full-fledged workable sample to the army competition.

Basic technologies

A distributed pumping laser is proposed for use in two projects. Distributed pumping technology is the original development of a solid-state solid-state laser. In its original form, a solid-state laser is capable of delivering high power, but the crystal heats up in this case, which requires an effective cooling system to prevent its deformation and destruction.

Fiber is used as an alternative to solid-state lasers. In this case, the beam is formed by optical fiber, which is easier to cool. Several fibers give out beams of limited power, and their combination allows you to obtain the desired characteristics of the entire complex. However, the creation of a system that combines multiple beams is a rather difficult task. In addition, GA calculations showed that a 250 kW laser requires approx. 100 fibers - this makes the laser overly complex.

General Atomics proposes to use several crystals in series, one after the other. The energy source must act on the first crystal and create laser radiation, which is immediately transmitted to the second element of the active medium. It amplifies the radiation and delivers it to the optical beam guidance system or to the next crystal. In theory, the technology allows three or more crystals to be connected in series - both on one line and using intermediate mirrors.

The distributed pumping laser is simpler and more convenient in terms of the arrangement of the aggregates. It becomes possible to create a more compact product with sufficient beam power. Also, excessively large and complex cooling means are not required. General Atomics notes that the resulting 250 or 300 kW laser is significantly smaller than one would expect.

To create a full-fledged combat laser complex, means of target detection and tracking are required, as well as guidance automation capable of keeping the beam on the selected object until it is hit. Similar technologies are already available and have been repeatedly tested in different projects. Moreover, such tasks can be simplified by reducing and lightening the emitter. At the same time, there are difficulties. Rough road, waves, etc. able to interfere with the retention of the aiming and make it difficult to hit the target. These issues need to be addressed.

Future experiences

Combat lasers from GA, created by order of the Pentagon and on an initiative basis, are planned to be used on land, at sea and in the air. Some concepts of this kind have already been shown, while the details of others have not yet been disclosed. In particular, it is not known how the new lasers will be used in aviation.

In all cases, a 300 kW combat laser will be used as a means of short-range air defense. Using the beam, it is planned to hit guided munitions, cruise missiles and aircraft of all classes that have passed through the areas of responsibility of other air defense components. In addition, the laser will provide protection against unguided rockets and artillery shells.

General Atomics' concept design for a land-based laser provides for the installation of all the necessary equipment in a standard container suitable for transport on different platforms. In this case, a rotating support with a laser is placed on the roof of the container. A complex of similar architecture, but without a container, can be used on warships.

The specifics of using the new laser in aviation are not disclosed. A similar complex is currently being developed in the form of a suspended container, but GA, apparently, has nothing to do with this project. Probably, the laser of the new type will only be able to be installed on an aircraft of the AC-130 type with a corresponding reserve of internal volumes and carrying capacity.

Two projects

In the coming years, General Atomics can complete the development and launch an experimental laser based on the new technology with a power of at least 100 and up to 300 kW, which is notable for its small dimensions and weight. In 2022, this product will have to undergo comparative tests and demonstrate its advantages over two other developments, which will allow it to move to new stages of development.

It is noteworthy that General Atomics plans to use the new technology in two projects at once. Apparently, the company is confident in the correctness of its decisions and is ready to bring them to full operation. How right she is - time will tell. Tests of new samples for the Pentagon will begin in just a couple of years.
Photos used:
General atomics
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  1. polpot
    polpot 11 December 2020 18: 04
    Advertising materials, of course an interesting thing, when they are built then we'll see.
    1. pytar
      pytar 11 December 2020 23: 30
      Advertising materials, of course an interesting thing, when they are built then we'll see.

      As long as you watch, they will. And then you will not look long, the laser acts instantly ... I exaggerate of course laughing but the threat cannot be underestimated.
    2. Vol4ara
      Vol4ara 14 December 2020 10: 42
      Quote: polpot
      Advertising materials, of course an interesting thing, when they are built then we'll see.

      With Yao, they probably thought so too, "we'll see later," then I had to force the creation of my own Yao with my bare ass, littering the flow and the surrounding lakes, because it is stupid to think about nature when you might be banged. Only a powerful tank fist in Europe saved us then
  2. Masha
    Masha 11 December 2020 20: 11
    Laser pointers no longer working? recourse
    1. bk0010
      bk0010 12 December 2020 21: 46
      How is air defense? No.
    KVU-NSVD 11 December 2020 20: 34
    Readers of this material would be more interested in a comparison with our Persvet, but a qualified comparison is hardly possible.
    1. Svetlana
      Svetlana 11 December 2020 20: 58
      It is impossible to compare the incomparable. Peresvet is a created product, but the article tells about the prospects, plans and technologies being developed.
      1. Momotomba
        Momotomba 11 December 2020 22: 42
        Quote: Svetlana
        Peresvet is a product created

        We used a tank laser rangefinder to dock spacecraft before, but now we are proud of Peresvet ... But what does he do? What does it affect? At what distance and with what probability does he do it? What is the economic component of using this miracle weapon?
    2. G. Georgiev
      G. Georgiev 13 December 2020 16: 40
      Power of the Russian laser "Peresvet" = 3 MW. !
  4. flicker
    flicker 11 December 2020 21: 20
    Tests of new samples for the Pentagon will begin in just a couple of years.
    The United States does not have two years. bully
  5. Connor MacLeod
    Connor MacLeod 11 December 2020 21: 48
    So far, they can only set fire to cardboard boxes at a distance of 100 m. laughing
  6. Evil Booth
    Evil Booth 11 December 2020 22: 08
    I saw a video of how the boat was burned from the ship, well, how they burned it motionless in the calm, point-blank with the seats, and a point appeared on the post-foam seat like a lighter. something from the obalsti t34-57 was already in the 41st year, but of course the tiger is steep. so this laser is effective just like a sumvolt which floats again, returning in tow with weapons - it is not there. Well, and quite obvious, the energy of the railgun on the ship when suddenly hit by the ship is not much more than the muzzle energy of the tank gun, only the tank has a real shell and the railgun has a plastic bottle "0,25 liter" it would not break on the paint. the rate of fire of the desired railguns is also something 1 shot per battle. In Russia, the p-1000 volcano commercials were quietly adopted in the 91st year, the range is 1000 km, and after 10 years on the Internet, as many as 10 years later, they were not discussing bots, how weak the p500 became in 30 years against the Aegis ... not launching 48 missiles instead of 24, and the air force and air defense are completely absent completely. just the same level. I managed to buy nyork for cookies a couple of times.
    1. ggraph
      ggraph 19 February 2021 08: 53
      The vector of thought is correct, it seems. But the expression of thought is very lame.
  7. Basarev
    Basarev 11 December 2020 22: 46
    This is a rather alarming situation. Now the characteristics are not very impressive, but the funds are still allocated, considerable, there is a clear understanding of the goals, there is a will not to give up and continue working. And this work is underway. One day the system will be refined, with such and such persistence. I would not be in the situation of the Crimean War. It is now we are laughing at weak installations ... And in the not so distant future we may be powerless in front of the mighty rays from the sky.
    1. pytar
      pytar 11 December 2020 23: 25
      You are absolutely right, dear Arseny! good Once upon a time, and firearms looked wretched against the background of perfectly spent bows and crossbows! But it took a little time and firearms took over the world! This will also be the case with lasers and other new technologies. It's unavoidable! Whoever achieves success earlier will defeat the "natives" who have only weapons of the last century. hi
    2. eklmn
      eklmn 11 December 2020 23: 30
      "The specs are not very impressive right now ..."
      I decided to check the characteristics of Peresvet. From Wiki:
      "Most of the information about the complex is classified, but according to experts, it presumably performs the tasks of air and missile defense."
      "The expert also added that such installations consume a lot of electricity, so using them as a portable tool is unlikely to work."
      Y-yes ....
      But there are enough pictures! A 3-axle tractor tows a 5 (!) Axle unit!
      The question is - if it is, the installation, heavy, then its power is huge? I doubt it ...
      Most likely a chemical laser ...

  8. jonht
    jonht 12 December 2020 00: 33
    The laser itself is an interesting and dangerous thing, but it is dangerous primarily for pre-sonic CDs. They do not have a developed body heat protection. In addition, guidance is carried out by, say, a low-power aiming beam, with which the parameters of the target and the quality of the atmosphere are determined.
    And this means that the installation of radiation sensors can reduce the efficiency of the laser several times, leading the target to maneuvering, and on large objects we put aerosol-metalized bombs and hide behind "smoke", since even just water vapor (cloud) reduces the efficiency of the laser beam by several times.
    Therefore, the laser must have a wild pulse power, which in a second beam should be enough to burn (do not forget about heat protection and heat-resistant materials) of the attacked object.
    In short, the laser is still proud to shoot down only drones and slow-moving objects. hi
    1. onstar9
      onstar9 12 December 2020 04: 31
      Well, in fact, steel is cut with a laser, so it is not clear how "water vapor or smoke bombs can significantly reduce the efficiency of the laser." It is possible that the lasers are still weak and can be easily reflected by mirrors, fog, protected by a housing. They just need to "get over" a certain threshold of power, where no materials or obstacles will stop it. I think that such a threshold will come at a capacity of 1000 to 5000 kW. Neither mirrors nor refractory metals of the case will help here. And even more so aerosol or fog. Of course, it will not reach the ICBM head, but within 10 km it will cut absolutely everything ... which is what is required for effective air and missile defense. And over time, when lasers reach 50 kW, any ICBMs will become irrelevant.
      1. jonht
        jonht 12 December 2020 05: 08
        See the distance from the radiator to the metal by the river. With increasing distance, everything is much more complicated. Yes, the laser beam has an expansion angle and it also needs to be faulted to the lowest possible point.
        1. Sancho_SP
          Sancho_SP 12 December 2020 09: 56
          And this is a question for aiming.

          The narrower the beam is focused, the more difficult it is for them to hit the target, while, in the case of hitting (and holding on to the target), the impact will be intense and local - in other words, it will melt a hole.

          If the “spot” at a distance has a target diameter or more, then it becomes much easier to hit, but the impact will be over the entire target at once and relatively weak.
      2. Lied71
        Lied71 17 December 2020 16: 20
        There is a video on YouTube, where a person who owns his laser machine easily cut through a mirror at an angle, the laser was infrared.
  9. Sancho_SP
    Sancho_SP 12 December 2020 09: 52
    Globally, it is like with electric vehicles. First, unviable experiments, then (after a qualitative leap in technology) unprofitable, but already quite viable samples, then (after the quantitative development of technology) cost-effective samples.

    It seems that now we are witnessing the second stage, its beginning.
    1. Winnie76
      Winnie76 12 December 2020 13: 49
      Electric cars appeared in the 19th century and competed with might and main with steam and gasoline. The development peaked at the beginning of the twentieth century. And then they quietly merged. And until there is a breakthrough in batteries, the prospects are hazy.
      In terms of consumer qualities, electric cars stupidly lose to their brothers with an internal combustion engine and it is not a fact that this will ever change
      1. Sancho_SP
        Sancho_SP 12 December 2020 14: 06
        Come on. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, cars were, in principle, dubious experiments of enthusiasts.
        1. Winnie76
          Winnie76 12 December 2020 14: 13
          You might think now everything has changed a lot.
      2. Lied71
        Lied71 17 December 2020 16: 24
        \ The development peaked at the beginning of the twentieth century. And then they quietly merged. \
        You are only being disingenuous for what reason they merged, although they did not merge into everything, in Europe, the USA and Japan, I think they occupy a certain niche, but they supposedly merged, because oil / gasoline tycoons are not allowed to enter the market, since these are their direct interests in economic terms.
      3. Alexey Polyutkin
        Alexey Polyutkin 15 February 2021 09: 00
        Tell this to Ilon Musk))) By the way, in the 2000s, I talked with an engineer from Ukraine about the production of electric vehicles. At that time, his whole family rode on converted from serial cars into electric cars. Consumption in terms of rubles was 10-20 times lower than gasoline. Now I don't remember exactly how many.
        1. Winnie76
          Winnie76 16 February 2021 02: 25
          Quote: Alexey Polyutkin
          Tell this to Ilon Musk)))

          Which is the American Mavrodi? Tesla in the 20th year produced 100 thousand cars. Toyota 4 million, Volkswagen 3.7 million, Renault 3.4 million. So Tesla is nothing more than a statistical error in the global automotive industry.
          Quote: Alexey Polyutkin
          At that time, his whole family rode on converted from serial cars into electric cars. Consumption in terms of rubles was 10-20 times lower than gasoline.

          And I rode the gas for several years. The cost in ruble terms was two times lower, so what? If you live somewhere in Miami, move 10 kilometers a day in a home-work-home mode, it might make sense. At subzero temperatures, the capacity drops dramatically, and if the interior is also heated, the range may drop by more than an order of magnitude. In addition, the stay of the lithium-ion 18650 batteries in the cold (the Tesla battery consists of them) is fatal for these very batteries.
  10. Egor53
    Egor53 13 December 2020 13: 17
    With a laser beam power of 300 kW and a contact time with a target of 1 second (and there will no longer be) this beam can evaporate 120 grams of water. No military drone can be damaged with such power. Let’s keep quiet about the tank, there, inside the tank, they don’t even feel heating.
    And the electric generator of such a laser will be no less than 3 kW. capacity, and weigh over 000 tons.
    1. Lied71
      Lied71 17 December 2020 16: 30
      \ the beam can evaporate 120 grams of water \
      Well, we will keep silent about the fact that water has a huge heat capacity, as well as the fact that the beam cannot hover over it normally. Did you personally evaporate water with such a laser?
      \ No military drone with such power can damage. \
      Do you also develop drones? Well, to say something like that, how does a military differ from a non-military one?
      \ Let's keep quiet about the tank \
      Nobody talks about tanks yet.
      \ there, inside the tank, they won't even feel heating \
      What not to say about observation devices, dynamic armor, about kaz.
      \ And the electric generator of such a laser will be no less than 3 kW. capacity, and weigh more than 000 tons. \
      Well, that is, it cannot store power in capacitors for a shot, right? Where is your data from?