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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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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?

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