NEW LASER SOURCES DEFEND THEIR SPACE
Until relatively recently, the use of laser systems for defence
and security was limited principally to target designation for
guided munitions, as seen in the Gulf War. As laser technology has
matured, however, laser sources have now started to find wider
application. Two such growing application areas are Directed
Infrared Countermeasures, or DIRCM, and (remote) spectroscopic
sensing, identification and quantification of threat materials.
In DIRCM, an infrared laser source is mounted on a platform to
be protected, and transmits a high-brightness beam towards any
incoming heat-seeking missile. This dazzles and confuses the
missile guidance unit, causing it to veer off course and miss the
Laser-based remote or 'standoff' detection of threat agents
(explosives, toxic industrial chemicals or chemical warfare agents)
uses the distinct spectral absorption features of these materials,
particularly at infrared and terahertz wavelengths, to detect,
identify, and even quantify them at safe distances.
While both of these application areas have been known about and
studied for many years, practical implementations of both have been
hampered by the limitations of existing laser sources, particularly
in power and/or tunability.
However, with novel intracavity pumped optical parametric
oscillator designs, that deliver compact size, class-leading power,
high brightness, hands-free operation and wide tuning, the M
Squared 'Firefly-IR' mid-IR and 'Firefly-THz'
terahertz laser sources show considerable promise for spurring
these applications forward.