Excalibur Aerospace announced ambitious plan to test 1.2MW conformal phased array hybrid solid-state / free-electron laser undergoing atmospheric testing and software optimisation.
The experimental 1.2MW phased array hybrid solid-state laser for the Excalibur unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) will be operationally tested before the end of the year. The main target of these trials is to optimise the beam forming optical phase shifters, heat management and software performance. The Excalibur UCAV has 4 arrays distributed along the airframe; 1 facing upwards for mid-course and space based threats and 3 facing downwards for boost phase engagements.
Excalibur Aerospace will work in the North Atlantic, a location chosen as being the ideal proving ground due to its large potential for atmospheric disturbances, much higher than in the Nevada desert and more difficult to cope with. Testing in the North Atlantic also will provide valuable insights into an operational use in the Arctic where very important geopolitical shifts are currently taking place.
Testing will also reveal a “Hard Limit” under CB, cloud, turbulence and humidity conditions, beyond which an airborne laser will simply not operate effectively anymore, at the current state of technology. The Excalibur operating at high altitudes – where atmospherics hardly play a part – this “limit” will only be relevant for the engagement software in a “heads down 1st shot” configuration.
The Excalibur laser is of a hybrid design and combines a powerful fast tuning free electron laser with a solid-state water-cooled fiber optic laser. This combination allows for complex pulsed, high power and Q-Phased quasi-continuous operational modes that can defeat any ballistic or air-breathing type of target.
The advantage of the free electron laser is that is can be fast tuned to any frequency and therefore defeat any future kind of mirror coating, designed to defeat direct energy weapons. The combination of two technologies provides a better resilience and graceful degradation should any failure occur, without limitation to the Excalibur’s main mission of intercepting BMD type threats.
Operational Excalibur units will field the standard hybrid laser technology, as well as two internal weapons bays which can hold up to 9,000 lbs of traditional ammunition including hit-to-kill interceptors such as the PAC-3 or Aster 30/Block II.