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High Energy Laser Weapons: Quantifying the Impact of Atmospherics and Reflections

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Systems Concepts and Integration

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Atmospherics, Directed Energy, HighEnergy Laser Weapons, Modeling, Propagation, Reflection, Simulation, Standardization, Test Methodologies


Directed Energy includes both High Energy Laser (HEL) and High Power Microwave (HPM) weapons. Particular progress has been made in recent years with HEL systems such that it is highly probable that NATO Nations will be presented with either coalition or adversary employment of HEL weapons in the near term. SCI-264 gives NATO a good picture of how and when High Energy Lasers can contribute to reducing or eliminating some of the capability shortfalls. It identifies and explains the operations of the main components of a HEL weapon; compares the use of HEL and conventional weapons across a range of military vignettes; identifies and addresses some key interoperability aspects; and identifies a number of issues that must be addressed if HEL weapons are to be incorporated into the NATO response plans. SAS-140 (2017-2020) proceeds with investigating the outlines of laser weapon operational concepts and employment. Should NATO possess or be faced with such a capability in the future, it will be important to understand and to quantify the impact of weather conditions and the characteristics of possible target reflectivity in order to properly plan and execute engagements across the battlespace, or to assess the risk of a laser weapon threat. This proposed RTG is a follow-on to SCI-264 and builds upon the products and information developed under the previous RTG.


Turbulence, precipitation, humidity, aerosols, and obscurants have the potential to severely affect the propagation of a laser beam between the source and a target. Since the range, lethality, and required dwell time will be affected, it is necessary to quantify the impact of weather conditions prior to the use of a HEL to properly plan and execute the engagement across the entire kill chain. Currently, only certain nations have proprietary HEL modelling and simulation abilities, with no standardized metrics or descriptive terminology to communicate the impact on laser effectiveness. There remains insufficient HEL test data covering atmospheric conditions in different geographic locations to anchor HEL models for use in different environments and to generate a NATO operational-use database. There is also very little reliable data to characterize the onset and effects of thermal blooming (heating induced changes in the refractive characteristics of the air caused by absorption of the laser energy as it propagates). The outcome of this activity will be the definition of a joint, standardized approach for modeling the effects of weather on HEL performance, and unifying the prediction and description of its impact on HEL effectiveness. This will also enable more accurate evaluation of the likelihood and impact of reflection/scatter/spill-over of the HEL beam when engaging a target. Standardized quantification and characterization of this laser energy is of major importance as the accumulated data will be used to shape safety measures and Tactics, Techniques, Procedures for use of HEL in operations. Deliverables: Standardized metrics for HEL M&S, Standardized metrics for HEL-appropriate atmospheric models, Atmospheric data for multiple scenarios, Joint Test Reports. End Product: Final Report, releasable to all NATO nations and Australia


A. HEL Modeling and Simulation capabilities and requirements B. Atmospheric data for a variety of NATO scenarios C. Modeling of weather impact for a variety of NATO scenarios D. Impact of weather on secondary reflections E. The establishment of Safety Criteria appropriate to HEL weapon employment

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