AAOL News Exposure:
Posted: 03/08/2011 by AFIT Public Affairs
CDE has successfully tested the AFIT Active Pointer Tracker (AAPT), a laser pointing and tracking system, in-flight. The AAPT is a key component of the Airborne Aero-Optics Laboratory (AAOL) Multi-Research Initiative sponsored by the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL JTO). CDE partnered with the University of Notre Dame on this MRI.
“The power of a laser weapon is due to coherence, that is, the property of a laser beam that gives it its pencil - beam like propagation with all rays traveling in the same direction. Likewise, the laser beam’s coherence allows one to focus all of its energy with a single lens to single point achieving very high levels of energy density. This, of course, leads to rapid heating or even the melting of most targets.” said Rick Bartell, CDE’s Lead Research Engineer, “The atmosphere causes a reduction in a laser beam’s coherence and when the laser beam is moving through the air flowing around an airborne vehicle, the effect is even more severe”.
The AAOL project, for the first time, characterized this air flow disturbance, called aero-optical turbulence.
“If we can better understand the physics of aero-optical turbulence, we can improve the effectiveness of current and future laser weapons through range extension and quicker kills” stated Matthew Krizo, the project lead from CDE.
AAOL flew two Cessna Citation aircraft in close formation, the lead aircraft with a telescope mounted to its side for collecting the laser beam, when pointed at it. The AAPT was mounted on the chase aircraft. The instrumentation on board the lead aircraft is designed for very high bandwidths and resolution for detailed analysis.
“Initial findings by HEL JTO determined this research of such importance, that an additional two years of funding was provided until 2012” said Joshua Brown, mechanical engineer for the project, “We are very happy with the research and very happy to have the needed funding.”
During one of the test flights, WZZM13 News of Grand Rapids, Michigan conducted a news feed on the flight.