Monday, April 18, 2011

Air Force’s Future Laser Will Fry Enemy Sensors

Air Force’s Future Laser Will Fry Enemy Sensors: "

The Air Force is tight-lipped about this one so far. But it’s seeking a new laser that can fry anything an adversary might use to track its planes.

As air defense goes, the fact that Moammar Gadhafi hasn’t been able to launch any anti-aircraft missiles at U.S. or allied planes goes to show that the Air Force and Navy have a pretty good bead on the electronic signals emitted by enemy sensors. Once detected, those sensors are easily dealt with by bombs or the upgraded Tomahawk missile. Still, the Air Force figures the only good sensor that plays for the other team is a fried sensor.

That’s where the High Power Laser Effects for Counter-Sensor Engagement project comes in. A request for information released last week by the Pentagon’s High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office asks industry to identify some mature technology to “provide a near-term capability to disable sensors and engagement systems using lasers, either pulsed or continuous wave.” The program, under Air Force auspices, doesn’t care about destroying whatever’s carrying the sensors. It just cares about disabling the sensors themselves.

All told, the technology necessary has to be ready for use within five years. Judging by the Navy’s work with lasers at the Office of Naval Research, that probably means using a crystal or chemical medium to generate a powerful laser beam over great distances, not less proven technologies like fiber optics or even the multiwavelength Free Electron Laser. According to the request, the beam’s got to have the power of a kilojoule per cubic centimeter when fired from 10 kilometers away. That’s no joke.

That suggests it’s likely to be mounted on a plane — manned or unmanned — raising the prospect of a Flying Lightsaber that chops sensors. (Perhaps with greater success than one that hunts intercontinental ballistic missiles.)

But the Air Force isn’t saying anything about the program. “It’s too early right now to really add to it,” says Connie Rankin, a spokeswoman for the 377th Air Base Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Oh well. Anyone looking to offer a practical path to a sensor-hunting laser has until May 12 to step forward.

Image: Kirtland AFB

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...