Artist’s rendition of the Tactical Laser Weapon Module deployed on a drone aircraft.
Perhaps it was apropos that around the same time trailers for the upcoming Star Wars movie “The Force Awakens” were circulating on the blogosphere General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced that a U.S. Government appointed independent measurement team had completed beam quality and power measurements of its Gen 3 High Energy Laser System (HEL).
The new laser represents the third generation of technology originally developed under the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS, Gen 1) program. The Gen 3 Laser employs a number of upgrades resulting in improved beam quality, increased electrical to optical efficiency, and reduced size and weight. The recently certified Gen 3 laser assembly is very compact at only 1.3 x 0.4 x 0.5 meters. The system is powered by a compact Lithium-ion battery supply designed to demonstrate a deployable architecture for tactical platforms.
The laser’s run time is said to be limited only by the magazine depth of the battery system. During testing, beam quality was reported to be constant throughout the entire run, which was more than 30 seconds. These measurements confirm that the beam quality of this new generation of electrically-pumped lasers can be maintained above the 50 kilowatt level.
The Gen 3 HEL tested is expected to be used on the Tactical Laser Weapon Module (TLWM) currently under development. Featuring a flexible, deployable architecture, the TLWM is designed for use on land, sea, and airborne platforms and will be available in four versions at the 50, 75, 150, and 300 kilowatt laser output levels. GA-ASI expects deployment of the TLMW on the Predator C Avenger by 2018. The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) also has asked industry to provide a 150-kw laser weapon suitable for installation on future DDG-51-class destroyers.