Northrop Grumman Corporation has just equipped the U.S. military with Phantom, a compact-sized high-power laser beam source specially equipped for rapid deployment in tactical situations, the company announced this week.
At just 12 cubic feet in size, Phantom, Northrop Grumman’s new 10-kilowatt laser, is tough enough to handle extreme environments, while being small enough to allow the laser’s deployment in even the most demanding combat situations.
Lasers rely on the production of coherent light, a beam of photons possessing the same frequency, which will not spread and diffuse. The waves produced by lasers are identical and all in phase, which is what allows the production of the controlled beam of coherent light.
Ranging from their size and power requirements to the expensive costs associated with their design and deployment, the U.S. military has faced a wide range of challenges with the deployment of lasers in practical combat situations since their earliest use during the Vietnam War.
According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this year, the Pentagon spends close to $1 billion each year on the development of directed energy weapons that include its current arsenal of lasers, capable of offering advanced defense against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), projectiles, and other threats.
“However, DOD has had trouble getting these technologies out of the lab and into the field for several reasons,” read a summary of the GAO report, which noted that one of the challenges the DOD faces included “determining how to use them in missions.”
The report detailed that of the three branches of the armed services, only the Army has currently developed a transition plan outlining scheduling and stakeholder roles aimed at furthering laser weapons development.
Aiming its sights on helping the military overcome the challenges it faces with the implementation of directed energy weapons, in the past Northrop Grumman has already developed several of the most sophisticated high-energy lasers currently used by the U.S. armed forces. These include the company’s Strategic Illuminator Laser (SILL), along with a 300kW High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) specifically designed to counter UAVs and other fast-moving threats.
Capable of fitting into a space no larger than a small refrigerator, Phantom weighs less than 200 pounds, meaning that it is small enough to be carried and installed by a pair of individuals in almost any situation, and still delivers significant laser power capabilities for use in a variety of tactical operations.
With its compact size, the company hopes its new Phantom will not only make it a formidable new addition to the U.S. arsenal, but also a practical and accessible one.
“Northrop Grumman is using its expertise in directed energy to deliver an extremely compact, lightweight and efficient laser for the warfighter,” said Robert Fleming, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman strategic space systems in a statement earlier this week.
“By miniaturizing this advanced capability, we are expanding the reach of our technology and continuing to lead the way in high-energy lasers,” Fleming said.