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Northrop Grumman Fires Up Firestrike Laser

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., May 10, 2012 — Northrop Grumman Corp. test-fired the first product in its next-generation Firestrike family of high-energy solid-state lasers. The devices meet size, weight reduction and ruggedization goals for operational applications, it said.

Conducted at the company’s Redondo Beach laboratory, the tests demonstrated that the laser could burn through the skin and critical components of a target drone used to simulate anti-ship cruise missile threats to US Navy ships.

This next-generation Firestrike laser is called Gamma. (Images: Northrop Grumman)

The laser, dubbed Gamma, uses “slab” architecture similar to that of the company’s previous high-power lasers. It operated at 13.3 kW for a number of shots over a period of 1.5 hours with stable performance and a 1.4 beam quality that exceeded design goals, the company said. The initial trial phase was completed.

“Gamma has equaled or exceeded the performance we achieved in previous slab lasers, but the real advancement here is in packaging and ruggedization for operations in real-world military platforms,” said Steve Hixson, vice president of advanced concepts, space and directed energy systems for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector.

“Gamma implements a significant reduction in the number of internal optical components, while new mounting techniques can eliminate sensitivity to vibrations,” said Dan Wildt, vice president of directed energy systems for the Aerospace Systems sector. “Key portions of the Gamma laser have already been subjected to vibration, shock and thermal testing to validate that these improvements have achieved design goals.”

Damage to the outer cover of a representative cruise missile threat caused by the Gamma laser.

The components used in the test included the skin of a surplus BQM-74 drone and other parts configured to represent critical internal components. The BQM-74 was formerly produced by Northrop Grumman for the Navy as a representative cruise missile threat and used for testing defensive systems.

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