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A Northrop Grumman engineer tinkers with the deadly 105.5 kw solid-state laser. Northrop Grumman recently announced it had created the world's first 100+ kw solid state laser, raising hopes of laser warfare.  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

The 105.5 kw laser reaches its peak power in 0.6 seconds. It consists of eight lasers chained together to form a super laser. All of these components are contained in Northrop's laser weapon system demonstrator, seen here.  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman passes an important milestone, as laser weapons near deployment

Science fiction fans and generals alike have long fantasized about what it'd be like to have a laser weapon at their command.  Now at last such dreams are nearing reality.  After years of steady milestone progress, military contractor Northrop Grumman has reached a significant mark -- the first 100 kW steady-state laser

The laser is part of the Joint High-Powered Solid State Laser Phase 3 Program, which combines 8 lasers in chain fashion to create a "superlaser" of sorts.  Each laser can deliver up to 15.3 kW individually and is about the size of a large briefcase.  Together they form a unit about the size of a couple garbage dumpsters stacked together, which can deliver a peak beam of 105.5 kW.  The device has operated continuously for 5 minutes, a major landmark in integrity.

The beam quality is an impressive 3.0 or better, and full power is reached in 0.6 seconds.

At 100 kW, the laser is capable of delivering a military-ready deadly beam.  The unit could see deployment aboard next-generation battleships and cruisers or aboard large aircraft.  States a company release, "In fact, many militarily useful effects can be achieved by laser weapons of 25 kW or 50 kW, provided this energy is transmitted with good beam quality, as our system does."

However, the relatively large weight and high power requirements remain obstacles to deploying the lethal laser.

Northrop Grumman is not satisfied with the significant breakthrough.  They want to continue to shrink the device so that one day it might be portable on the battlefield.  Dan Wildt, vice president of Northrop's directed energy systems program, adds, "It is still a little heavy and a little big."

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We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By judasmachine on 3/23/2009 10:38:38 AM , Rating: 2
This is cool. But what would be the exact use of this? Match it with a tracking unit to shoot down incoming aircraft, missiles, artillery shells? I personally can't wait until it's at least down to the size of a flame thrower.

By Moishe on 3/23/2009 10:44:55 AM , Rating: 5
The speed is the amazing thing. We need 4-8 automated laser turrets on each attack helicopter so that when you fly over some city it will automatically take out threats, incoming RPGs, etc.

The possibilities are endless if you can shrink them and provide the power. Every vehicle, aircraft, and soldier (think shoulder mounted predator) needs one.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Hulk on 3/23/2009 10:47:46 AM , Rating: 5
If the kill range is good I wouldn't think size/weight/power requirement would be that large of an issue for ships and large aircraft.

For example, one or two of these on an aircraft carrier? What a fantastic weapon to shoot down incoming missiles. Obviously it's size and power requirements wouldn't be an issue on a nuclear powered carrier. And the ability to track/correct/track on incoming missiles seems like a great advantage over the Patriot system where you miss you lose!

I'm also not real keen on us being the first ones to be inflicting terrible burn injuries on enemy fighters. I'm seeing this more as a great defensive weapon. ie you come within x kilometers of us and we are warning you that you are in our kill zone.

Then again we might need these on tanks if Godzilla and Godzilla-like monsters begin to attack!

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By porkpie on 3/23/2009 11:01:02 AM , Rating: 5
I'm also not real keen on us being the first ones to be inflicting terrible burn injuries on enemy fighters.
You mean besides the widespread use of flamethrowers in WW2, or chemical weapon burns in WWI ?

Personally, I'll bet that being killed by a laser is a lot less painful than getting shot in the gut and taking a few hours to die.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By theapparition on 3/23/2009 12:02:27 PM , Rating: 2
While I'm no expert on the subject, I belive the usefulness of laser weapons is not from the "burn through", but rather the momentum energy (yes photons have momentum). Such energy could rupture the structural integrity of a craft, causing explosion.

Much as people rarely die in an explosion from burns but rather from close proximity to concusive force. I think this would be similar.

Either way, you're right, being shot is no guarantee of death.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By PKmjolnir on 3/23/2009 1:26:06 PM , Rating: 5
The extreme heat generation from a 100KW laser beam will by far outweight any radiation pressure effects.

A 100mW laser can pop balloons and cut trough/burn paper, 100KW is one million times that amount of energy. If you point a 100mW laser to a spot on your forehead for 11.5 days you'll have had the same amount of energy directed at you as you would in one second from a 100kW laser, but with 11.5 days less time to radiate/conduct away the thermal energy.

A problem here is if you hit a reflective surface and send a stray 1 watt laser reflection in 100000 directions, blinding
people all the over the place.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By BigPeen on 3/23/2009 7:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
Chances are there aren't many materials that will reflect this laser. It would probably just burn right through any normal mirror or reflector. What is the emission wavelength anyways?

By Master Kenobi on 3/24/2009 9:31:07 AM , Rating: 2
Emission wavelength is classified and rightly so. Harder to develop an effective counter to it that way.

By Davelo on 3/24/2009 12:32:02 PM , Rating: 2
Does that mean any missile with a reflective surface is immune to this high powered laser?

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By MrPoletski on 3/23/2009 1:09:02 PM , Rating: 5
You mean besides the widespread use of flamethrowers in WW2, or chemical weapon burns in WWI ?

Or the white phosphor grenades used in vietnam... or the white phosphor shells dropped on Gaza (cough) sold to Isreal by the US;)

Personally, I'll bet that being killed by a laser is a lot less painful than getting shot in the gut and taking a few hours to die.

A 'laser wound' will be very different from a bullet wound.

Instead of carving a hole through the body (and the bullet might fragment and ricochet inside you too) which, with enough bullet power, will destroy adjacent tissue too.. You have a direct straight line burn-through. That laser will incinerate everything in its path, but not much outside it's path.

On top of that, the laser weapon will likely cauterise the wound enough for there to be no bleeding.

So a laser shot that burns a hole through your leg would likely incinerate the bone it hits too, leaving a 3cm wide hole right through your leg. probably wont bleed much though. Get an assault rifle bullet through the leg and you'll likely blow the limb off and bleed to death if you don't get assistance.

Get shot in the gut by either weapon though and my money is on the assault rifle victim surviving over the laser weapon. Sure that bullet will mince your intestines, but that can be sewn back together, when you're missing a massive chunk of them though, that's difficult. not to mention that an assault rifle bullet might merely deflect off your spine, the laser would burn through it like anything else.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Jimbo1234 on 3/23/2009 2:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
And since the laser can be operated continuously for a few minutes, it's going to cut a continous path when moved, essentially slicing the victim in 1/2 or making a whatever is diameter hole. I'd say that's a more effective way to eliminate a threat than turning them into swiss cheese.

By MrPoletski on 3/25/2009 6:44:10 AM , Rating: 2
What's the biggest threat to a standing army?

Simultaneously slicing off all their legs in a big windscreen-wiper of death maneuver....

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Ammohunt on 3/23/2009 2:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
I believe they would use the laser to draw lines such as on an armored collumn against personnel i would think it would be the same. So rather then a burn hole you would mostly like be sliced in twain or thrain.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Reclaimer77 on 3/24/2009 10:13:53 AM , Rating: 2
You guys have it all wrong.

Our bodies are 80% water or something aren't they ? If you were ever hit by a laser of this power, you would simply burst into flames or explode from the insane temperature differences.

By AssBall on 3/24/2009 4:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
Plus it will sublimate bone on contact, if not turn it into plasma. You don't just have a hole in you, you have high energy plasma... not good.

By MrPoletski on 3/30/2009 9:42:42 AM , Rating: 2
the rate at which the target is heated may cause explosive style expansion, but I think damage from that would be insignificant compared to the cutting of the laser.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By besya on 3/24/2009 12:25:43 PM , Rating: 2
A few questions:

You keep on saying assault rifle, why? How is it different from any rifle? With the power required to run such a laser why would any military want to use it directly against individual soldiers, some might get hit by accident, but that's about it. Comparing a rifle to a laser of this power seems wrong. This laser should be compared to a rocket strike, mortar fire or something in that category, at least from a deployment point of view.

By bryanW1995 on 3/23/2009 6:19:08 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, mothra had better watch out, too!! northrup grumman hq could be our only hope...

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Triple Omega on 3/23/2009 10:49:02 AM , Rating: 2
Although I don't doubt it will reach that size in the future, carrying a battery-pack with enough juice to power that baby for longer then a millisecond would really hurt your back. :P

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By dickeywang on 3/23/2009 11:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
I bet we will see portable nuclear-powered battery pack by that time. :D

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Boze on 3/23/2009 12:24:46 PM , Rating: 5
Don't cross the streams.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By ZJammon on 3/23/2009 5:28:12 PM , Rating: 2
Why not save your back and use the new HULC from Lockheed Martin?

By shin0bi272 on 3/23/2009 9:23:56 PM , Rating: 2
or the raytheon/sarcos version

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By abraxas1 on 3/23/2009 10:49:39 AM , Rating: 2
I'm thinking some kind of point defense system. Purely a defensive system with rail guns for offensive purposes on ships.

Get it small enough and you can place it all planes or drones for defense rather then using the old flare and chaff solutions.

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Calin on 3/23/2009 11:09:12 AM , Rating: 2
You can have a reflector on a drone, and use the ship-mounted system to hit targets that aren't in your field of view, or on reverse slopes, or anywhere you'd like.
There are a lot of possibilities

By otispunkmeyer on 3/23/2009 11:45:23 AM , Rating: 2
i like it.... need some pretty expensive mirrors though, the energy density in the beam would probably be easily enough to machine right through them.

By austinag on 3/23/2009 11:46:42 AM , Rating: 2
True, but that better be one clean frikin reflector...

By Spectator on 3/23/2009 3:15:50 PM , Rating: 2
Dont forget All that Space junk. Need to clear that up also :P

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Aloonatic on 3/23/2009 11:13:55 AM , Rating: 2
Looking at that picture, I'm not sure it'll be of much use anywhere other than outer space. If they need to be in a dust free environment then the Taliban will not have to worry about this any time soon :)

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By derwin on 3/23/2009 11:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
Thats a really interesting point.

I can imagine the day when something maybe a little stronger than this thing goes off through a cloud and the beam scatters all over a city. No serious damage, but i could imagine a few people being blinded or having eye damage.

By otispunkmeyer on 3/23/2009 11:47:08 AM , Rating: 2
for sure... the NOHD on some lasers is crazy (near ocular hazard distance)

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By Aloonatic on 3/23/2009 12:49:43 PM , Rating: 2
They may even get it down to the size of a rifle, and make fancy body armour but all this technology will be easily overwhelmed by marauding gangs of teddy bears with flint axes, small bows and arrows and some rolling logs.

By superkdogg on 3/23/2009 2:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I get it. An Endor joke! :)

RE: We're gonna need bigger sharks...
By wvh on 3/23/2009 9:58:22 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be trivial to come up with some sort of very effectively reflective coating on missiles?...

By Master Kenobi on 3/24/2009 9:33:57 AM , Rating: 2

By RoberTx on 3/24/2009 1:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
It could almost make an aircraft carrier invulnerable to a conventional attack. At 100+KW and .3 second power up it could easily take out supersonic anti-ship missles. Right now the Aegis system can't do that and I don't think any conventional system can deal with a surface skimming supersonic missle. Potentialy the laser could.

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