Monday, December 19, 2011

India developing own laser weapons to target missiles


India developing own laser weapons to target missiles



Move over missiles, rockets and bombs; for India has embarked on an ambitious mission to develop its own laser weapons.

In a two-track process, defence scientists are developing a strong laser source to kill enemy missiles and rockets on the one hand and perfecting the technology to control the laser beam for effectively utilising the source as a weapon on the other.

“We aim to conduct the trials of a tactical level laser weapon (that can strike an enemy target 5-7 km away) within the next five years,” Anil Maini, director of Laser Science and Technology Centre (Lastec) here, said at a Defence Research and Development Organisation meeting on Monday.

The idea of using lasers as weapons has been around since  it was invented in 1960. But to make an effective weapon, the source has to be strong enough to generate beams producing hundreds of kilowatts of energy.  Nobody in the world has perfected a laser weapon for operational use so far.

As the defence laboratory planned to develop a 25 kilo watt solid state laser source for its first trial, Maini said it was going to be an arduous task considering that defence scientists so far have developed only a 1-kilo watt solid state laser source, which is ideal for field use.

Gunnery system
Last month, at the Farnboroigh air show, US firm Raytheon unveiled its anti-aircraft laser that could shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles, mortar, rockets and small-surface ships. The laser system could be used on its own or together with a gunnery system.

Raytheon, too, used a solid state fibre laser that produces a 50 kilowatt beam. In the first  phase, India wants to make something similar but half its strength.

“Our aim is to make laser weapon for shooting down enemy missiles at the terminal phase. The Army is interested in having such an weapon,” Maini said.

While Lastec and Solid State Physics Laboratory are developing the source, in a parallel development bulky carbon dioxide and chemical lasers are being used to produce a high-energy beam using which the beam control technology can be developed.

The scientists working on the direct energy weapon project, Aditya, will take a minimum of three years to come out with a beam control technology, which is absolutely essential to have a laser weapon in hand.

To design the control technology, Maini and his colleagues are developing a gas dynamic laser (150 km) and a chemical laser (20 kw). But both are too bulky to be used in a battle field, necessitating the development of compact and portable solid state lasers.

“But worldwide, the solid state technology is not powerful enough to produce hundreds of kilowatts of energy,” Maini added.

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