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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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What's the Damage?
By kring on 3/23/2009 11:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
So can this thing cut a plane in 1/2 in less then 1 second or is it the equivilent of a bullet from a handgun?

What's the damage that 100kW laser does?




RE: What's the Damage?
By MozeeToby on 3/23/2009 12:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
Let's put it this way. If I assume the beam is about 20 mm^2 when it hits the target, it would be about 35000 times brighter than the sun.

If all the light is absorbed (not going to happen but just a quick estimate) and I'm doing my math right (it's been a while since I took physics), 1 kg of aluminum would increase by 110 degrees Celsius every second that the laser was aimed at it; you would melt the block in less than 7 seconds.

I doubt you'd heat up that much mass in that amount of time though, the beam is too concentrated and the heat is added too fast, the energy won't have time to spread out to the rest of the plane. I'd bet if you had very accurate targeting, you could burn a hole into the fuel tank and ignite the fuel of a fighter jet in less than 5 seconds. Of course, you'd have to hold the laser to within a few square centimeter area of the plane for it to work that fast.


RE: What's the Damage?
By geddarkstorm on 3/24/2009 3:56:53 PM , Rating: 2
Think about this: Full, high noon sunlight at the equator of the planet has about 137mW of power per cm^2. This kW laser is about a million times more intense than sunlight if it hits a cm^2 area.

To put it lightly, that'll leave a burn.


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