An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 10 December 2002

We present a point of view contributed by one of our regulars –– Sayan Mazumdar from Kolkata –– on India's laser technology status. He is both knowledgeable and keen on India becoming a strong military power.

The Indian Air Force had done a lot of work in adapting laser-guided bomb technolgy and that effort needs to be pursued. Cooperation with Russia and other countries may be the answer to our many technological DRDO projects, so that they succeed and the costs can be amortised. We are aware that Indian defence scientists cannot do everything on their own. Do send in your views on this article.

India’s Laser Technology Efforts

By Sayan Mazumdar

India unveiled its high technology laser weapons programme during mid 1994 just prior the visit of then Prime Minister P.V. Narashima Rao to the United States. The programme included a tactical laser beam system designed to destroy "terrain hugging" land-attack cruise missiles and low flying aircraft and attack helicopters. DRDO scientists at that point of time had stated that the Indian laser weapons programme was a decade old and at least five years away from a working prototype of a laser weapon.

Developments at that point of time included high power combustion driven gas dynamic lasers and arc tunnels. Laser outputs of 1 Kilowatt, with pressure of 30 atm and heat up to 1800 Kelvin had been achieved. To function as a weapon system laser outputs of at least 10 Kilowatt with comparable increase in pressure and temperature were needed and were projected to be achievable within "next four to five years".

The laser programme was also working on carbon dioxide wave-guide lasers for use in communications, and especially in weapons guidance, ranging, tracking and imaging that is applied to LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), to be delivered on enemy targets with pin-point accuracy. Surgical strikes on high-value military installations are thus facilitated with minimum collateral damage.

Solid-state lasers were being developed for use as super-high-speed ignition systems to arm missiles. Various sub-systems for laser research had been developed like laser compatible optical glass, metal mirrors and high-energy Xenon lamps for laser pumping.

Lasers and other directed energy weapons are all well set to play a vital role in future conflicts. On a global scale the most famous laser weapon is mounted on YAL-1/747, which is a modified Boeing 747-400 carrying a 2.64 metre diametre nose turret housing beam steering optics for a chemical oxygen-iodine laser. The aircraft is projected to loiter around at 40,000 feet and shoot down theatre ballistic missiles in the boost phase from a distance of 600 kilometres. Also under development is THEL (Thermal High Energy Laser) designed to shoot down short-range artillery rockets fired from MBRLs (Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers).

Emergence of sophisticated low-power yet high-energy lasers facilitated miniaturisation of laser weaponry to be developed for fighter-sized aircraft. It is reported that a 25 KW to 100 KW laser weapon was being developed for the projected JSF (Joint Strike Fighter).

Under such circumstances, the Indian scientists should make rapid strides in development of indigenous laser weapons of sufficient capacity within a given time frame. If necessary, joint-collaboration with the Russians and/or Israelis should be welcome.

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