Lasers tested against missiles

Textron Systems will conduct experiments to assess laser systems as a way for aircraft to defend against anti-aircraft missiles under a $13 million Air Force contract announced Sept. 28.

The objective of the Aircraft Directed Energy Laser Applications program is to boost aircraft defense capabilities against current and emerging missile technology through the use of high-intensity lasers.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., awarded the five-year contract, which requires Textron to design, develop and test lasers and laser beam pointing and tracking control systems. The company will use infrared sensor technology to develop aircraft-mounted laser beam projection control systems.

"Laser sparks are proven to be highly effective" in some cases, said Daniel Trainor, who manages the program for Textron. "Laser sparks also offer the countermeasure community an ability to disable and disrupt the operation of advanced [imaging] missiles."

Previous tests have shown that the production of laser sparks can create a false target, resulting in so-called "break-lock" within the missile's sensors. Tests included experiments with various missiles and hardware and complemented the numerous laboratory experiments conducted at Textron Systems and at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

"This unique countermeasure concept has potential to serve as a technological upgrade to existing aircraft anti-missile, self-protection systems," said John Boness, Textron vice president of business development. "However, additional financial support is required from the user community to move this technology closer to a practical aircraft self-protection system."

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