High energy solid state and free electron laser systems in tactical aviation
Mansfield, Robb P.
Colson, William B.
Armstead, Robert L.
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A study and analysis of high energy laser (HEL) systems aboard tactical aircraft is performed. The FA-18E/F Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), equipped with solid-state HEL systems, are the main subjects of the study. Considerations of power generation and thermal management for a fighter-sized HEL system and aero-optic effects on beam propagation from high and medium altitude platforms are examined. An overview of system capabilities details how the HEL system will be more difficult to incorporate into legacy strike aircraft, but may be feasible for future aircraft such as the JSF. Tactical flight simulations are used to study and develop potential concepts of operation (CONOPS), using realistic scenarios and threat environments. Results show that a tactical HEL will not be a stand-alone weapon in combat, but will have many potentially useful tactical applications. Another study of a high energy free electron laser (FEL) system aboard C-130J-30 Hercules shows that such a system is feasible. Finally, a study of the FEL shows that strong field extraction can be optimized using undulator tapering.
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