Framework For Advancing Directed Energy Weapons
by David Vergun, DOD News
August 14, 2020
The U.S. Defense Department is developing directed energy weapons ...
high-powered lasers and microwaves ... in concert with industry in a
way designed to achieve optimal outcomes.
During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight
on January 25, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Keith Lewis)
Two DOD officials discussed the importance of developing an
efficient and effective modular open system architecture, or MOSA,
at the Booz Allen Hamilton-sponsored Directed Energy Series today:
Chris Behre, the lead for directed energy, modular open system
architecture in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for
Research and Engineering and technical director of the Surface Navy
Laser Weapon System Portfolio for Naval Surface Warfare Center's
Dahlgren Division., and Dr. Sean Ross, the deputy High Energy Laser
Technical Area lead and prototyping liaison for the Air Force
MOSA is important because it allows
components and subsystems of the weapon to be standardized, Behre
said. That will allow for incremental system upgrades and minimize
obsolescence, he explained, while reducing costs and shortening the
A 5-kilowatt laser sits on a Stryker armored vehicle. The laser, called the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser, was tested during the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Okla.homa on April 5, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica K. Guthrie)
One way to think of MOSA is as "guard rails to guide things ...
not hard, level requirements that stifle innovation," Behre said.
Teams of engineers and DOD officials from each of the services and
the Missile Defense Agency are working on developing a MOSA draft
that will be available for comment by the acquisition community and
industry in less than a year, he added. It's important that this
work on MOSA standards is being done early in the process before
programs of record emerge, he said.
Ross said that if MOSA is
done right, it has strong potential to decrease market barriers.
Nontraditional vendors with niche capabilities would want to
compete, he said, and there could be an increase in small business
involvement and innovation.
Laser weapons system subsystems
include thermal management, laser weapon controller, beam control,
laser source and power management, he noted. Industries that
specialize in any of these subsystems would find a ready market
within DOD if their designs show promise, he said.
Former Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, gets a firsthand look at the directed energy laser weapon system aboard the interim afloat forward staging base USS Ponce in Manama, Bahrain on November 26, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Lawlor)
MOSA allows for flexibility and not overprescribing, Ross said,
citing two examples.
Within a laser system, the operating
temperature of the diodes is one of the most important factors in
laser effectiveness, he said. "It is one of the major swap drivers
with competing effects," he continued. "The higher the diode
temperature, the less efficient the laser is. However, the thermal
management system works most efficiently with higher diode
temperatures. So deciding an arbitrary temperature in the MOSA
standard would be very risky and result in a suboptimal system."
The second example is based on the standard that the higher the
voltage used in the laser, the lower the required weight of the
copper conductive wires, he said. If the voltage is too high, he
explained, there would be arcing and a corona effect ... two
May 23, 2019 - Captured by a special camera, a laser beam invisible to the naked eye shoots across the dark expanse of the David Taylor Model Basin at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory photo by Leonard Pieton)
The solution, Ross said, is for the government to come up with
broad standards, letting industry come up with the finer details.
A successful MOSA standard is one that gets industry excited and
eager to take on the challenges and run with it, he said. If the
MOSA standards make no sense, he added, everyone will just ignore
them and innovation and competition will come to a halt.
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