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Future battlefields will use directed energy atmospheric lens

16 January 2017

BAE Systems believe that battlefield commanders could deploy a new type of directed energy laser and lens system capable of enhancing observation abilities.

The Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept (Credit: BAE Systems)

The Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, developed by technologists at BAE’s military aircraft facility in Warton, Lancashire, works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena and temporarily changes the Earth’s atmosphere into lens-like structures to magnify or change the path of electromagnetic waves such as light and radio signals. 

The lens could also be used as a form of ‘deflector shield’ to protect friendly military vehicles and troops from incoming attacks by high power laser weapons.

BAE Systems states that LDAL is a complex and innovative concept that copies two existing effects in nature; the reflective properties of the ionosphere and desert mirages. The ionosphere occurs at a very high altitude and is a naturally occurring layer of the Earth’s atmosphere which can be reflective to radio waves – for example it results in listeners being able to tune in to radio stations that are many thousands of miles away. The radio signals bounce off the ionosphere allowing them to travel very long distances through the air and over the Earth’s surface. The desert mirage provides the illusion of a distant lake in the hot desert. This is because the light from the blue sky is ‘bent’ or refracted by the hot air near the surface and into the vision of the person looking into the distance.

LDAL simulates both of these effects by using a high pulsed power laser system and exploiting a physics phenomena called the ‘Kerr Effect’ to temporarily ionise or heat a small region of atmosphere in a structured way.

The LDAL concept has been evaluated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). 

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