The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has contracted with Boeing for it to continue development of a prototype “High Power Adaptive Optic” system by applying adaptive optic technology to high-energy laser tactical systems.
Boeing is to develop the systems for the DoD’s High Energy Laser – Joint Technology Office (HEL-JTO) and the goal of the research is to minimize the distortion of a laser beam and thereby increase the amount of laser energy applied to a target, according to the company.
Traditional “adaptive optics” were originally developed for astronomers’ telescopes and used to correct for the blurry image that occurs when wind or other turbulence distorts wavelengths of light from a star or other astronomical object. “By minimizing the distortion of a laser beam, much like telescopes can take the ‘twinkle’ out of the stars, we can increase the amount of energy on a specific target,” said Mike Rinn, Boeing directed energy systems vice president and program director. “This very small, lightweight Adaptive Optic system will enhance both the range and the power of tactical laser weapons,” he said.
In order to apply adaptive optics technology to the tactical environment, the High Power Adaptive Optic system will employ ultra-high speed, state-of-the-art processing and sensor technologies. The system features a beacon illuminator and deformable mirror to deliver the required high-rate atmospheric correction and high-energy laser capability.