REDONDO BEACH, Calif., May 7 -- The US Air Force has awarded contracts to three companies for the first phase of a three-year program to develop the strategic illuminator laser, or SILL -- a four-kilowatt-class, solid-state pulsed laser. The Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency is providing the funding under a contract managed by the Air Force.
Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Space Technology sector, in Redondo Beach, received $499,606; Textron Systems Corp., of Wilmington Mass., $482,982; and General Atomics, of San Diego, $486,026.
Under the four-month, Phase I contracts, the companies will assess technical approaches and produce a conceptual design for the SILL, then a single contractor will be selected for the second and third phases. The third phase will culminate in 2006 with delivery of a rugged, flight-qualifiable brassboard laser with a development path for space applications.
"The SILL will provide the Missile Defense Agency with a higher-power illuminator laser, which is a critical component of laser systems such as the airborne laser (ABL), as well as future space-based programs," said Jackie Gish, director of DE Technology at Northrop Grumman Space Technology. The ABL will use a megawatt-class chemical laser, mounted in a Boeing 747-400F airplane, to destroy enemy missiles during the boost phase, he said.
"The SILL's higher power as well as its excellent beam quality will yield an enhancement in range capability over existing illuminators. It also marks an important step on the path toward a solid-state laser for use in space," said Gish.
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