Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program

What Is It?

Initiated in 2012, the Office of Naval Research Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program will develop and mature high-energy laser technologies into a prototypical weapon system for use and installation on the Navy’s surface combatants.

How Does It Work?

LASER means “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” and specifically, Solid-State Lasers utilize specific solid chemicals that when combined with a light source (often LEDs), amplify and focus light at long range.

What Will It Accomplish?

The program's goal is to produce a prototypical weapon system for use on surface Navy combatants. Lasers have the capability for speed-of-light engagements, with very precise, real-time targeting and battle damage assessments.

The Department of Defense began funding research in high-energy lasers soon after the invention of the laser in 1960 when it was thought that they might (if scalable to high power) have tremendous impact on how wars were fought. In 1973, a new chemical laser technology, based on deuterium fluoride (DF), was determined to be scalable to high power at mid-infrared wavelengths which propagate far better in the atmosphere than other frequencies. The Navy and ARPA then jointly built a multi-hundred-kW class laser, from which the Navy leveraged this technology to produce the nation’s first MW-class HEL weapon test bed. The Mid-InfraRed Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) and the SeaLite Beam Director (SLBD) were installed and integrated at White Sands Missile Range in the mid-1980s and used for experiments by DoD. While performance of these MW-class lasers was highly promising with many targets successfully engaged, the logistics and safety issues of hazardous chemicals in a shipboard environment severely hampered further development or implementation on the Navy’s surface combatants.

Solid-State Laser technology with weapons-level effects has been maturing rapidly, and recent advancements by the scientific and commercial sectors have begun to show that a potential application on surface combatants is possible. In particular, the ONR Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) for the first time in 2011 took a laser to sea and successfully conducted a mission scenario against a representative threat small boat, while underway. Further, support for a continuation of competitive programs like LaWS (Laser Weapon System - NSWC Dahlgren), the MLD (Northrop Grumman) and MK 38 TLS (Tactical Laser System, Boeing/BaE) continues to garner interest and generate discussion. The start of the SSL-TM Program has been strongly encouraged by Navy leadership to enhance expertise and develop programmatic focus. A key goal of SSL-TM is to align the S&T program thresholds and objectives with future R&D/acquisition planning processes and requirements, meeting current budgetary constraints. The goal of the SSL-TM Program is to produce multiple demonstration-level events with prototypical quality systems in a competitive environment.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • Atmospheric propagation of high-energy laser in a maritime environment
  • Ruggedized, high-energy, density-tolerant, optical path components
  • Compact high-efficiency laser generation technology

Points of Contact

Mr. Peter A. Morrison                             LCDR Sean Niles
ONR Code 352                                      ONR Code 352       

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