April 3, 2023

LFW's Executive Forum at Photonics West: What’s ahead for lasers in directed energy?

Many thought leaders in laser technology gathered in San Francisco to participate in the Laser Focus World's Executive Forum in connection with SPIE Photonics West 2023. Leonardo Electronics US was well represented in the panel discussion, moderated by Robert Walker, VP, Strategy and Business Development, who framed the discussion on high-energy lasers in defense. Panelists Prabhu Thiagarajan, SVP, Leonardo Laser Solutions business unit, Jay Dawson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Robert Afzal, Lockheed Martin, and Michael Hofle, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, participated in a lively discussion of the opportunity and challenges in deploying directed energy

Directed energy is, of course, not a new topic. Ronald Reagan first introduced the strategic defense initiative in 1983, which described high-energy laser technology as a potential countermeasure to ballistic strategic nuclear weapons. Forty years later, the US does not yet have directed energy lasers in the field but faces readily available new threats, broadening the potential targets and use cases for high-energy laser weapons systems.

Audience participation and questions centered on the challenges in directed energy laser technology, supply chain needs, recruiting qualified talent, and available funding for deployment. Laser technology to support the US DoD’s directed energy programs has evolved significantly in the last couple of years, thanks in much part to the companies represented in this panel.

“Laser diodes are required by all directed energy laser architectures in development today and are a key enabling technology for improving system level size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C).  Leonardo is at the leading edge of laser diode technology in this space and leverages decades of experience successfully deploying military rugged laser components and systems.  We are very excited to continue supporting the warfighter with dependable laser components and systems as these technologies transition to programs of record.”

—Robert Walker

Read Laser Focus World's Executive Forum follow-up, "High-energy lasers await Pentagon green light."

Blog Image: Raytheon's 50-kilowatt laser has been chosen for the U.S. Army's directed energy short-range air defense system on a Stryker combat vehicle. The Army will initially outfit a platoon's worth of the system. (Artist rendering courtesy of Raytheon). Image credit: Defense News.