January 9, 2024

Advancing the High-Energy Laser Technology Roadmap

The future of a modern defense strategy lies within the laser industry. Laser companies are an incredible asset in advancing defense with the potential to manufacture products that can fire at light speed, minimize collateral damage, and are compact enough to alter the battlefield.   Leonardo Electronics US Inc’s fiber amplifier and fiber-coupled laser diode, inspired by their work with DARPA1 in the EUCLID2 project, both play a major role in making these high-energy lasers (HEL) widely available.  In the next few years, the products being engineered by Leonardo today represent the future for high-energy lasers. These advances will ensure widespread deployment onto land, sea, air, and space-based platforms. 

Leonardo is a leader in the laser defense industry, and we understand the requirements and needs of defense companies to have products characterized by ruggedness, high performance, and low SWaP-C (Size, Weight, and Power-Cost). Our company’s legacy as a trailblazer in the laser diode industry speaks for our ability to create exceptional products. While other companies repurpose industrial lasers for defense purposes, Leonardo’s focus is defense solutions. To meet the mission-critical needs of the U.S. Department of Defense, Leonardo leads the industry in Research & Development investment in laser arrays for defense.

Leonardo’s A20 fiber amplifier and F8 fiber-coupled laser diode were designed from the ground up to survive rugged military operating environments. Modular in design, the A20 and F8 products are flexible for easy integration into a HEL system. The F8 fiber-coupled diode offers the highest power in the most compact package in its class. Leonardo continues to invest in its disruptive roadmap for HEL, working toward significant improvements in the SWaP-C of our products. It is expected that these investments will help to overcome today’s barriers to the full deployment of directed energy

The A20 is made in the US and manufactured at Leonardo’s facility in Tucson, AZ. Modular and customizable, our products are an ideal starting point for long-term strategic collaborations with prime contractors looking to inform the development roadmap for HEL. 


High Power Lasers for Defense

Leonardo Technology Roadmap

Key demonstrations of HEL systems have occurred over the past several years, including the delivery of lasers to the US Navy aboard the USS Portland3 and on US Army platforms, including the Stryker4. To make HEL weapons more widely deployed, the laser must continue with technological advancements. These include:

  1. Power.  More power from the pump source results in more power from the high-energy laser.  This results in less time on target and the potential to engage more targets in less time.
  2. Physical volume.  Shrinking the size of the laser makes HEL systems fit on very small platforms such as combat vehicles.
  3. Weight.  The weight of the laser and laser support systems can be significant.  Deployment on lightweight platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, requires reducing the mass of HEL systems.
  4. Cost.  The operational cost of HELs is very low when compared to conventional kinetic weapons, such as missiles. However, the upfront costs are very high.  Key cost reductions are expected as Leonardo transitions these products to a high-volume manufacturing environment.

Leonardo is investing in the development of disruptively lower SWaP-C laser components and manufacturing processes for scalability while participating in the development of industry standards for testing and open architecture. Leonardo is actively collaborating with major defense companies to assist in proactively identifying and resolving issues to enable the widespread deployment of HEL weapons.   

1 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

2 Efficient Ultra-Compact Laser Integrated Devices

3 5th Fleet Public Affairs-NAVCENT, USS Portland Tests High Energy Laser Weapon System in Gulf of Aden (December 15, 2021).

4 J. Judson, Army Readies to Deliver First Set of Strykers with 50-kilowatt Laser Weapons, Defense News. (January 13, 2022).