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Lessons from the Battlefield: Technology Transfer Cuts Both Ways

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1999
Daniel C. McCarthy

As an industry, photonics can testify to the value of technology transferred out of the military. Charge-coupled devices, diode lasers and infrared imaging all owe much of their early development to defense basic research fueled by the Cold War and spun out to commercial markets.
That flow of technology appears to be ebbing or at least eddying as the government increasingly is leveraging commercial sector technologies back into military applications. Optical networking is a microcosm of this trend. During the seventies and eighties military funding lent wings to data networking, wavelength division multiplexing and erbium-doped fiber amplifiers all which graduated and blossomed in the commercial sector. Now as the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff begin to envision networking combat forces on and off the battlefield, they are turning to civilian-driven technologies that the military helped spawn.


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