Lasers Could Be Coming To The F-35

Discussion in 'F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program' started by AMDR, Oct 8, 2015.

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  1. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Lasers Could Be Coming To The F-35
    http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/10/lasers-could-be-coming-f-35/122581/?oref=d-skybox&&

    Advances across a range of fields could enable a sci-fi upgrade to the fighter jet

    [​IMG]

    Lockheed Martin’s new modular fiber lasers now convert fully 40 percent of input energy to output, which means that — along with advances in manufacturing, targeting, and size-weight-power minimization — the company’s now talking about putting a laser weapon on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    “We are absolutely looking at concepts for integration,” Robert Afzal, the company’s senior fellow of laser systems and sensors, told reporters yesterday.

    Unlike solid-state bulk lasers that rely on crystal components, or powerful but unstable chemical lasers, fiber lasers generate their beams inside fiber optics, making the device more flexible and efficient. Afzal compared it to a prism that works in reverse. Whereas a prism takes light and fractures it into beams of different colors, a fiber laser merges several beams into one.

    Moreover, Lockheed Martin has developed a way to adjust a laser weapon’s output by adding modules, allowing it to be tailored for missions or threats.

    The company is under contract to deliver a 60-kilowatt fiber laser to the Pentagon next year. “The Army has the option to add more modules and increase power from 60kW to 120kW as a result of the laser’s modularity,” the company said in a press release.

    “Because the laser is so electrically efficient, the laser weapon will be smaller than previous technologies,” said Afzal.

    Those efficiency gains could make it suitable for jets. The company faces competition from rival General Atomics, which has already delivered a 150-kilowatt solid-state laser to the Pentagon for testing and is looking into mounting one on the company’s Predator C drone.

    The Air Force has recently become more bold in its predictions that a laser could be airborne by 2020. For instance, the Missile Defense Agency recently announced that they were revamping the Airborne Laser Program that was shuttered in 2012. The goal is to fly an airborne laser demonstrator in 2021.

    “Everybody thinks you have a tendency to talk about high-powered microwaves and lasers and it’s kind of science fiction,” Air Combat Command leader Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the leader of Air Combat Command, said at the recent Air Force Association Air and Space Conference. “But this is a reality. … I believe that we will have a directed energy capability in a pod that can be mounted on a fighter aircraft very soon.”

    Afzal cautioned that an F-35 laser was currently mostly a topic of interest and discussion within the company.

    “What we’re doing is we’re looking at the concepts. How would a system even go into the F-35? And we’re also looking into the utility and doing models and calculations to see the utility,” he said.

    And Air Force officials have hinted that they’re interested in putting a laser on the jet, although other have noted that such a weapon would primarily be intended to protect a plane from enemy aircraft — something the F-35’s stealth features are already supposed to do.

    “We’re certainly talking to the Air Force about their plans, their roadmap, for developing laser weapons for F-35 and other platforms. We would want to do that in partnership with the Air Force,” said Iain Mckinnie, business development lead for Laser Sensors and Systems, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training.[​IMG]
     
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  2. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Any word on where or how? I know there's been talk of fitting laser gear (power and cooling) in place of the lift-fan on the "b" model, which is more or less dead space on the "a" and "c" versions, has the US arrived at a podded laser yet?

    Lots of room for a laser here.
    [​IMG]

    This image was take 8 years ago near Eglin AFB, so I assume the pod size has been shrunk even more since then:

    [​IMG]

    The optics have changed a lot too, this is an adaptive optic - which is needed since different meteorological and atmospheric conditions, such as clouds, air pressure or moisture, will distort a laser (which needs to be pre-distorted so the atmosphere "rights" the beam on route to its target)

    [​IMG]

    Size, not functionality seems to be the problem now. The machinery is still a bit too cumbersome.

    Share those lasers when you get them!
     
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  3. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    They will have a 100 kW podded laser on an unstealthy aircraft (most likely an F-15C/E) by around 2022. However 100 kW is less than the amount that CSBA thinks would be effective against SAM and AAMs (150 kW and above) , which is considered the "Holy Grail" because of the potential that concept bears. HELLADS would satisfy this requirement though.

    HELLADS is making good progress but will need to mature more before it is ready for an aircraft (Predator-C at first). Like you said, if the F-35 would be equipped with a laser it would most likely go in the "dead space" on the A/C versions where the lift fan is supposed to be.

    Info from: http://breakingdefense.com/2015/05/...e-wants-fighter-firing-100-kilowatts-by-2022/
     
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  4. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    I've been meaning to ask about the progress of Avenger too. I don't consider it to be the most reliable, or interesting of sources (I prefer Foxtrotalpha myself), but War is Boring has reported Predator C isn't the most well liked or aircraft. Still, that report was over a year ago, but I haven't really noticed any notable updates or progress on the program.

    What's going on with it?

    This gets me excited though!


    Also, is the eventual winner of the UCLASS program a candidate for lasers? From what I understand the UCLASS is being held up because there isn't a set mission parameter for it yet, no one can decide what UCLASS should do.

    The good news is it's funded, the bad new is it's still without focus or clarity.

    I expect next-generation weapons like lasers and a robust ECM capability, but at this point no one seems to be sure.
     
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  5. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Personally, I think that by the time UCLASS comes into service around 2025, lasers will start becoming a common trend aboard all combat aircraft. As for UCLASS itself, they are currently trying to rectify the mission design dilemma by proposing two variants of UCLASS. One variant that is deep-strike oriented with ISR as a secondary role. The second proposed variant is the opposite, an ISR oriented aircraft with strike as a secondary role. By producing these two variants and operating them in tandem, they would offer the best of both worlds without having to make trade offs in terms of capability

    The interesting thing is, GA has proposed "Sea Avenger" as a possible UCLASS candidate. Its basically a Predator-C designed for an aircraft carrier. As we have discussed before, the Predator-C has been designed from the outset to accommodate a laser, HELLADS. I'm sure the Sea Avenger would also have HELLADS as an option if it were adopted by the USN.

    general-atomics-sea-avenger-uav.jpg
     
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