Advanced Adaptive Optics (AO) for Laser Weapons in Heavy Turbulence
Navy SBIR FY2013.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2013.1
Topic No.: N131-076
Topic Title: Advanced Adaptive Optics (AO) for Laser Weapons in Heavy Turbulence
Proposal No.: N131-076-0570
Firm: MZA Associates Corporation
2021 Girard Blvd. SE
Suite 150
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106-3140
Contact: Donald Link
Phone: (561) 747-6881
Web Site:
Abstract: Adaptive optics are needed for high-energy laser (HEL) weapon systems when performance is limited by atmospheric turbulence. This typically requires adding an illuminator laser to produce a beacon by reflection from the target surface. Since a small spot is needed, the laser must be projected from the main aperture, complicating the optical design. With this type of beacon, performance is often degraded by speckle, spot size, and branch cuts. The mid-wave infrared (MWIR) thermal emissions from the spot heated by the HEL can also be used as the beacon. This beacon would not be affected by speckle and would have fewer or no branch cuts. We propose using finite element analysis, scaling law and wave-optics modeling, to do a detailed study of this concept.
Benefits: Using a thermal beacon instead of a separate beacon illuminator laser will allow for lower cost, electrical power, and complexity in a HEL weapons system. There may be additional benefits due to sensing at a wavelength less susceptible to branch cuts in strong turbulence. Thermal beacons could also have applicability for laser machining and enhanced imaging in fiery situations.