By Rob Coppinger in London

Wisconsin-based diode laser company Alfalight has been awarded an 18-month, $4.7 million US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to develop a 50W single-emitter laser diode.

The research is part of DARPA’s Architecture for Diode High-Energy Laser Systems programme. Its goal is to produce a multi-kilowatt diode laser system. Single emitters of less than a kilowatt of power would be combined to produce a multi-kilowatt beam.

In January 2006 Alfalight demonstrated a prototype 22W diode laser. “The programme will enable us to overcome the last remaining hurdle for this technology, which is to improve the beam quality at very high power operation. These performance improvements will be highly valuable in next-generation direct diode systems and defence applications,” says Alfalight chief executive Mohan Warrior.

More portable lasers are envisaged for anti-missile systems. These could be for anti-manportable air-defence systems or for future airborne platform-based directed energy weapons. The US Air Force has proposed equippingfuture Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters with directed energy weapons. The DARPA contract has an optional nine-month extension of $1.4 million, increasing the total contract worth to $6.1 million.

Source: Flight International