Northrup Grumman Successfully Tests Prototype Laser Weapon
Science fiction is full of laser weapons. One of the most easily recognizable sounds from Star Wars is a blaster, well, blasting away at something or someone. Various captains of the Enterprise have shouted for phasers, which are basically lasers in their operation. Settling back into reality, the U.S. Navy has been experimenting with laser weapons and the Navy isn’t the only military entity interested in the possibility of laser weaponry.
Northrup Grumman has been hard at work developing its FIRESTRIKE laser weapon system and has successfully completed a test-firing. The laser, dubbed Gamma, operated at 13.3 kilowatts and fired a number of shots over the course a 1.5 hour test. According to the company, Gamma had a, “stable performance and a beam quality that exceeded design goals, completing the initial phase of trials.”
Perhaps more important than the test results is the size of the FIRESTRIKE system. In place of a system the size of a small house, Northrup Grumman’s laser is small enough that it might actually fit into a ship or plane.
“The Gamma demonstrator is built in a form factor that implements the size and weight reduction goals of the FIRESTRIKE design, which cuts the weight of the finished laser chain to 500 pounds and shrinks the volume to 23 in. by 40 in. by 12 in., or about the size of two countertop microwave ovens,” said Dan Wildt, vice president, Directed Energy Systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
The difference is size is partially one of approach. Solid-state lasers require less acreage than their bulkier, older cousins and can still be scaled up through continued development. The Gamma was able to blast through a simulated cruise missile casing. This is important considering the primary use of laser weaponry (until we hit Death Star tech) is for defense.
Below you’ll find a clip that shows the FIRESTIKE laser eating away at the test material.