Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has reached a milestone by creating the first weapons-grade laser weapon. Engineers have chained seven laser chains together to produce a single beam of 105.5 kilowatts for five minutes of continuous operation. The system is still quite large and heavy, but it makes laser warfare one step closer to reality.
The technical details of Northrop's achievement break down this way, starting with a modular, "building block" approach that bodes well for scalable systems, the company said:
For building blocks, the company utilizes "laser amplifier chains," each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.
Adding an eighth chain that the system was designed for would increase laser power to 120 kilowatts, Northrop says.