Moderate and high energy (mJ to >1J), ultrashort pulse (~1ps or less) laser systems have seen rapid development world-wide in the last few years. Average powers have increased to >1kW, repetition rates exceed several kHz and some of these laser systems have now demonstrated peak powers in excess of one petawatt (1015W). The recent, continuing and accelerating advancement in laser technology has enabled new fundamental research in plasma physics and nonlinear regimes, examples of which include directed energy applications, laser driven particle acceleration, high harmonic generation. Such ultra-intense lasers have until recently been large in size and limited to low pulse repetition rates but new gain media and diode pumping techniques are both reducing system size and increasing pulse repetition rates. As a result it is timely for NATO to be invested in the potential applications, opportunities and threats made possible by this emerging technology area.
A Specialists’ Meeting was held from May 14th to 16th in Bucharest, Romania to promote the exchange of state-of-the-art knowledge among an audience of specialists in this important scientific topic to enhance the capability of the NATO S&T community to respond adequately to the NATO requirements. The aim of that Research Specialist Meeting (RSM) was to review the scientific developments that have been made possible by this laser technology and identify and evaluate the military applications made feasible by these recent developments. The current laser technology is still at a low TRL level, however the current rapid advancement requires the evaluation of military applications and threats that these laser fields pose to blue and red systems. As a conclusion of the meeting, the attendees agreed that the technology may not be high in TRL level but has high military relevance and an exploratory team should be formed to increase NATO understanding of the threats and opportunities and the potential timelines.
From 23-24 September, the exploratory team (ET) met for their kick-off meeting at the CSO office in Paris, FRA. Individuals provided background, research and interest to other team members, building the basis for constructive dialogue. After extensive discussions, the team shares a vision to advance the effort and agreed on moving forward with proposing a 3 year NATO collaboration effort. The recent advances in laser source technology appears to be a key enabler for military utility and threat assesment. The scientific unknowns that need to be answered are considerable and only acheiveable by effective collaboration, synergistic activities and sharing resources.
The objective of this exploratory team is to identify likely applications and investigate the possibility of collaborations between NATO nations in the field of short pulse laser research for near, mid and long term.
In particular, the following topics will be covered:
1. Directed Energy including dazzling and damaging of targets
2. Interrogation and Sensing applications including break down spectroscopy and EM wave generation
3. Generation of particle beams and high energy x-ray sources
4. Propagation of short pulse lasers