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BMD Trick Uses Laser Bank Shot: It’s All Done With Mirrors

By | August 14, 2006

      The Boeing Co. [BA] and the Air Force bounced a laser beam off a mirror, the company announced, a key advance for anti-ballistic missile technologies.

      That laser beam was redirected to a target using the Aerospace Relay Mirror System (ARMS).

      This test at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., used a half-scale version of a strategic relay mirror payload that ultimately could be packaged and carried to high altitudes on airships, long-endurance aircraft or spacecraft. Examples of those are modern blimps, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites.

      ARMS could be used with airborne, ground-based or sea-based high-energy lasers to destroy ballistic missiles and other targets, according to Boeing.

      Relay mirror systems will enhance laser weapon system performance greatly by reducing the atmosphere’s distorting effects on laser beams, and that advance would extend their range beyond line of sight, according to Boeing.

      The company, the second-largest defense contractor, is a leader with Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] in developing laser ballistic missile defense systems. Those two companies are teamed on the Airborne Laser, a high-powered steer-able laser mounted in a Boeing 747.

      “This [ARMS] demonstration is a major step in the development of relay technology because it shows that a relay mirror system can receive laser energy and redirect it to a target, extending the laser’s range,” said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

      During the demonstration, Boeing suspended the 15-foot-high ARMS hardware 100 feet above the ground using a mechanical crane.

      Testers fired a low-power, sub-kilowatt-class ground laser from several miles away at one of the two ARMS 75-centimeter (29.53 inches) mirrors. The other mirror relayed the non-lethal beam to a ground-based target board about two miles away from the ARMS.

      Boeing began its ARMS work four years ago under a $20 million Air Force contract.

      Now that the work is completed, the Air Force plans to use the ARMS hardware to establish a permanent test bed for relay system technology development.

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