As described earlier, enabling systems enhance the capability of existing systems. Because they are not adding a new capability, the concepts should be assessed in terms of the potential improvement in operational effectiveness. Existing enabling laser systems include laser range finders (LRF) and laser target designators (LTD), which have become indispensable on the modern battlefield, and laser illuminators that augment night vision devices. The illuminators are just entering the operational forces. In this section, the space-based laser target designator concept is examined in more detail as one that could be fielded rapidly.

As the military looks to the new century, precision engagement has emerged as one of the central tenets. According to Joint Vision 2010, precision engagement actually refers to a “system of systems” that incorporates intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems to locate and identify the targets, improved command and control (C2) systems to commit forces to attack the target, enhanced munitions systems to deliver highly accurate lethal forces against the target, and refined battle damage assessment (BDA) technologies to evaluate the strike and permit rapid re-engagement if necessary.126 Thus, precision engagement is truly an operational concept, not just a tactical manuever. The Air Force offers a strong capability to execute this concept and has incorporated precision engagement as one of its six core competencies.

One of the challenges facing the United States in the new era of warfare is to rapidly project power from long distances. The US has fewer overseas bases from which to launch sorties. Also, there are increasing problems in obtaining basing rights and overflight approvals from other countries on short notice. Thus, when a situation arises where the US needs to rapidly project lethal power against an adversary, a capability for long-range precision strike would be invaluable.

An intriguing aspect of PGMs is the concept of nonlinear operations.127 This term refers to the fact that a small “force” can create an unexpectedly large “reaction”—one bomb can have much greater lethality due to the increased accuracy and thus increase the utility of the weapon system. For example, in the Gulf War, only 4.3 percent of the bombs dropped on the Iraqi forces were laser-guided bombs (LGB) yet they caused about 75 percent of the serious damage to strategic and operational targets.128 The ability to hit a target precisely where it is most vulnerable is at the heart of the nonlinear aspect of PGMs.

Linking precision with effectiveness is not a new concept. Every warrior has had a pressing need for more accuracy in delivering lethal force to the intended target. Technology has provided many solutions, including the development of the theory of ballistics, new weapons such as the rifle, and high-tech devices such as the Norden bomb sight. However, the last half of the twentieth century has seen a tremendous improvement in the precision with which lethal force can be delivered. While 108 B-17’s dropped 648 bombs to obtain a 96 percent chance of hitting a power plant in World War II, it only took a single aircraft with two LGBs during the Gulf War to achieve the same result.129

Laser target designators provide enhanced aimpoints for laser guided weapons (LGW) to use as it guides itself to the target. The concept of using space-based LTDs (SB-LTD) occurred in both the Laser Mission Study130 and the New World Vistas study.131 The munitions may be LGBs that fall under the influence of gravity or laser guided missiles (LGM) such as the Maverick missiles that use rocket motors to increase their range. (Some Mavericks are laser-guided; others use other sensing techniques to guide to the target.) The operational enhancement and the success of LGWs has been clearly demonstrated since the first use against targets in North Vietnam such as the Thanh Hoa and Paul Doumer bridges,132 and most recently in the Gulf War.

All the LTDs in use are based on the Nd:YAG laser operating at 1.06 microns, a wavelength that propagates very well through the atmosphere. The output is emitted in very short pulses on the order of 10 nanoseconds in duration and may be encoded by a pulse code modulation (PCM) scheme to reduce the risk of jamming or spoofing the LGW.133 The laser light scatters off the target and the electro-optical (EO) sensor on the weapon captures it, computes any necessary flight path corrections, and sends the control signals to flight surfaces to place the weapon on target. From a conceptual point of view, the final “target” of the LTD is not the target slated for destruction, but rather the EO sensor on the munition. This distinction highlights the need to have the munition in the zone of sufficient scattered radiation so it can acquire the aimpoint.

The technical requirements for a space-based laser designator would be to acquire the desired target and then place the laser beam on the target from orbit at the right time for a LGM to lock on the beam and impact the target. The concept is best understood by breaking it into sequential functions, as shown in the following figure.


Figure 5. Operational Concept for Space-Based Laser Target Designation
Acquiring the target is the first step and typically involves a human in the loop. Due to operational constraints of the application of deadly force, the “man-in-the-loop” is expected to continue. Thus, an optical system would be required with sufficient resolution to image the target and then relay that image to an operator who is either on or near the earth’s surface. One key advantage of the space-based systems is that the operator does not need to be near the target zone.

The target acquisition, pointing, and tracking (APT) problem is a particularly challenging aspect of space-based LTDs. Highly stabilized platforms will be required. Fortunately, recent experiments under AF Phillips Laboratory sponsorship have successfully demonstrated a pointing system known as the Inertial Pseudo Star Reference Unit (IPSRU) that achieved less than 40 nanoradians of total jitter.134 This is equivalent to holding a crosshair on a target the size of a quarter (about two cm or one inch in diameter) at a range of 500 km or 270 NM.



Once the operator identifies and locks onto the target through the imaging system, the laser beam would be generated on the satellite. The laser would be a medium power, Nd:YAG laser operating at 1.06 microns in a pulsed mode. The laser would likely be powered by high efficiency diode lasers or pumped by solar energy. The output would be appropriately coded to match the LGW. The output optics would need to be sufficiently large to make the spot on the target fairly small. However, since the LGW detects scattered light and tracks to the centroid of the laser spot, the spot may need to be only a few meters in diameter for some targets.


Using a first order calculation based on diffraction limited propagation, a 1.06 micron beam emitted by a one meter diameter telescope and focused on a target over a range of about 370 km generates a spot of about one meter in diameter.135 Even allowing for spot size growth due to the actual optical system and propagation effects such as scintillation, a spot of a few meters in diameter could be generated from LEO using an output optical diameter of about one meter. A typical laser designator has a beam divergence of about 0.5 milliradians, generating a spot of about 4.5 meters at a range of five nautical miles. Thus, the SB-LTD could approximate current LTD performance.

The use of precision guided munitions is the essence of the AF core competency of precision engagement, and space-based laser target designation has tremendous potential for enhancing this capability. The ability to designate targets from space means any point on the globe can be attacked using stand-off weapons released far from the target. Further, SB-LTDs have the potential of attacking mobile targets or providing intermediate guidance points when coupled with laser guided missiles.

Another motivation behind increasing the stand-off range of LGWs is the risk to human operators during the terminal phase of the PGM delivery. Although some PGMs are autonomous, as will be discussed later, having a “man in the loop” provides a positive control in the use of deadly force. A look back at the Gulf War illustrates this point:

Cockpit video images of laser-guided bombs homing in on their targets captivated the viewing public during the Gulf War. What the public didn’t know was that the launch aircraft were potentially vulnerable to enemy fighters or air defenses during that targeting process. The aircrews had to keep the video crosshairs locked on their targets to “illuminate” them with their laser designators during the relatively long flight of each bomb.136

Although the illumination is typically only active during the final seconds of the weapons delivery, the crew needs to be close the target and thus put at risk. In the case where the designation is coming from troops on the ground, the risk may be even greater because they are less mobile and cannot leave the target area rapidly.

A variety of technologies are crucial to the SB-LTD concept. High-data-rate communications links are required to transmit real-time images of the target area to the human controller who would be based in a ground or airborne command and control center. Moderately large (meter diameter), lightweight optics would be required for both the imaging and the laser systems. Ultraprecise tracking platforms would be required to permit stable imaging of the target while the LEO satellite moves quickly overhead. Medium power Nd:YAG systems generating over 10 joules per pulse would likely be required, although a detailed energy analysis has not been done here. This is not an overly challenging requirement and could be achieved by current technology. Current military LTD lasers generate about 160 mJ per pulse or less.

In order to implement an operationally effective SB-LTD system for general military use, a number of expensive LEO satellites and controller stations would be required. A system that would provide limited capability for ultra-precise, low-risk strikes would not require an extensive system. Also, human control of target designation will prove challenging due to the limited target resolution at long distances and the high speeds of the satellites. Finally, exceptional intelligence is needed to identify where the targets are.


Back to Contents




Space-based battlefield illumination is an ‘enabling system’ concept that is at the stage where it could be rapidly developed and fielded, improving multiple operational systems. Being able to see targets has always been crucial to military effectiveness and a number of electro-optical systems like NVDs and FLIRs have been fielded to give the warfighter the ability to see targets in adverse conditions. Further, some surveillance and reconnaissance systems examine targets in the visible and infrared regions. Laser illumination can augment all of these systems.

Active Illumination
One of the revolutionary technologies used by the US military is low light level imaging systems. Examples include the starlight scopes and night vision devices (NVD) that use image intensifiers that amplify visible and near infrared light (typically in the wavelength region of 0.4 to 0.9 microns) to create an image bright enough to be seen and FLIR systems that use cooled far infrared detectors (such as mercury cadmium telluride (Hg:Cd:Te) detectors operating in the 8 to 12 micron region) to image the heat emitted by objects. Other systems, such as imaging reconnaissance satellites, presumably use very sensitive detectors to gather passively the reflected and emitted light from the target of interest in order to create the image. These systems have high gain to amplify the very weak EM radiation that enters the system. There still have to be some photons to be detected.

Using spotlights to illuminate targets was used as long ago as World War II for detecting German aircraft on night bombing missions over London. Recently lasers have been used as illuminators for NVD with the advantage that the narrow wavelength of the infrared laser can not be seen by the unaided eye, retaining the covertness desired in night operations. Typically the laser is a gallium-arsenide (GaAs) semiconductor laser operating in the 830 nm region. Laser illuminators include small handheld laser pointers like the Long Range Laser Pointer (LPL-30)137, rifle-mounted systems like the Havis M16 aiming light138 and even new systems like the GLINT illuminator on the AC-130U gunship.139 If illuminators can be used in these modes, why not use them from space?

The concept is to project a laser beam from orbit to flood a broad region (the battlefield) with additional photons of the wavelength that can be detected by the system that is being enhanced. The concept was included in the Laser Mission Study140 and New World Vistas141 Simply increasing the ambient light should improve detectability because the sensor will be operating in a more efficient region of its response. Considering the two systems of most interest to be NVDs and FLIRs, GaAs and CO2 lasers would be the best candidates for battlefield illuminators.

Improving the ability to detect targets while reducing the adversary’s ability to detect you has obvious military advantages. However, whenever a system is emitting any form of EM radiation, it risks detection if an adversary is looking in the right spectral region. Using a secondary source, such as a space-based laser illuminator, reduces the risk because the source is not collocated with the friendly observer. Thus, the military enhancement of the concept of space-based battlefield illumination has good operational enhancement.

This concept relies on accurate pointing of a laser at the surface of the earth. Thus, highly accurate ephemeris on the satellite’s location is required, available through GPS and ground-station updates. The IPSRU unit described earlier can provide the pointing accuracy. The laser system needs to be powerful enough to increase the illumination on the ground to a level that enhances imaging.

As a first order estimate of the order of magnitude power requirements, the object is modeled as if it were emitting EM radiation as a greybody of a certain temperature but the radiation is actually scattering off from the object by the battlefield illuminator. The Planck Radiation Law for a greybody is derived from fundamental laws of physics and provides the spectral radiant exitance, M
l, which is the emitted power per surface area of the object:

or, substituting in the value of the constants, using wavelength in microns, and converting units so the result is in W/cm2-mm,

Here, e is the emissivity of the object, modeling how close to an ideal blackbody radiator the object is. It takes values between 0 and 1. For this example, the emissivity is set to 0.4. If the temperature of the greybody is set at 300K (27ÉC or about 80ÉF, which roughly correlates to the skin temperature of humans), the spectral distribution appears as shown in Figure 6. (By considering a typical temperature for detectable objects in a nighttime environment, this simple model avoids discussing the specific detectability (D*) of fielded imaging systems.)


Objects at this temperature have a peak emission in the 8 to 12 micron ‘window’ of good atmospheric transmission that is detected by most FLIR systems. Integrating the emission in that spectral range, the object emits about 5 mW/cm2. Thus, the battlefield illuminator would have to provide approximately that fluence over the illuminated area to make objects at background temperature stand out to FLIR systems.


Figure 6. Greybody Exitance Curve for 300 K Object
If we want every square centimeter to be scattering that amount of power over the area of a football field (roughly 30 meters by 100 meters), and assuming a homogenous scattering surface, this equates to 150 kilowatts. Assuming a factor of three loss in the atmosphere, we would need approximately a 450 kilowatt laser on the space platform. This is a very large laser that might be achievable with some advances in CO2 laser technology.


It exceeds the foreseeable future scaling of semiconductor lasers, although shifting to the shorter wavelength improves the signal-to-noise ratio and using a smaller illumination spot would reduce the power requirements substantially. Finally, it is important to note that the laser need not be a coherent illuminator, so multiple lasers, each operating incoherently with respect to the others, could be combined as the illumination source.




The most significant technical challenge in this concept is developing a sufficiently powerful, space-qualified laser. The output aperture does not have to be as large because the spot size on the ground (and thus the desired beam divergence) is not small. For a SB-BI positioned at 200 NM, a 170 microradian divergence is required to make a spot about 60 meters in diameter. Using the approximate relation for divergence of f ~ l/D, the diameter of the output beam would have to be at least 6 centimeters. Because that is too small to take the high power output, the output beam would likely be transmitted through a telescope that was defocused.

Operationally, a small constellation of these illumination satellites would be required in order to give suitable coverage. The cost of the system would be fairly high, but the command and control systems would be less complex than the SB-LTD because the illuminator is equivalent to a laser spotlight and should pose an insignificant safety hazard.


Back to Contents




When a military conflict arises, there is no time to develop new weapon systems.


The tools that in the inventory are the ones that must be used. As Colonel John Warden wrote, the commander must face the fact that “everything must be built around the reality of his forces, not on how he would like them to be.”142 The constant challenge is how to rapidly move new warfighting technologies from an initial concept to hardware in the field. During World War II, new aircraft designs could reach production in a few years, under the intense pressure of the war. The shortened ‘cycle time’ for moving technology into the field is also illustrated by a vignette on electronic warfare:

In the Pacific the Japanese used radar as an aid to their torpedo bombers in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. When it was discovered that the frequency of the Japanese radar sets was below the lowest frequency of the high-power magnetron jammers then used to screen the American fleet, a call for aid went back to the scientists at the laboratory at General Electric. After a week of furious experimentation and activity, the laboratory delivered fifty new tubes. When jamming was again turned on, the Japanese bombers on the radar scopes could be seen to waver, turn away, and finally turn back.143

Similar success stories can be told about the 28-day development of GBU-28 ‘bunker buster’ bombs by AF’s Wright Laboratory during the Persian Gulf War144 and the field tests of Saber 203 laser illuminators by the Phillips Laboratory during the Somalia troop withdrawals.145 In all of these cases, existing technology was put together in new packages or altered to function in new ways and then quickly prototyped for field units. The risk of the equipment not functioning properly was high, but the potential payoff was worth the risk.

Today, fielding new weapon systems may take a decade or more. The problem of transitioning technology has become more difficult as the costs have risen significantly and the technology has become more complex. Part of the reason is the demand to use the most sophisticated technology available in order to give the most capable weapons possible. The aircraft of WWII faced less intricate design and manufacturing than today’s aircraft with multifunction CRT displays and composite materials. Also, the electronics of today’s weapons and communications systems use ultrahigh density integrated circuits that may require unique design and manufacturing techniques, and highly complicated software that may consume hundreds of thousands of lines of computer code and take years to design and debug.


Another reason for the long cycle time is the demand to conduct extensive developmental and operational tests to ensure that the new systems are performing as specified. Yet the goal of giving the US warfighter the technology needed increases the impetus to find faster ways to field new systems. A number of acquisition reforms are underway within DOD and are more fully discussed elsewhere.146 For example, the Air Force’s “Lightning Bolt Initiative #10" is investigating ways to reduce the cycle time in getting technology developed. The focus in this section is on exploiting a few of the channels that can move some of the space-based laser concepts into the field more quickly.

The current approach to developing new technology is the Air Force Modernization Planning Process.147 It is a complicated chain that begins by having the operational user define the requirements through a strategy-to-task analysis, that generates a Mission Area Assessment (MAA) that discusses the perceived threat, and a task-to-need analysis that results in a Mission Needs Analysis (MNA) and a Mission Area Plan (MAP), which identify technological deficiencies in accomplishing a given mission area, such as space support or information warfare. The operational community and the R&D community work together on Technical Planning Integrated Process Teams (TPIPT) where all of the participants in the development process can discuss the deficiencies and what technologies might overcome them. There are presently over 20 TPIPTs being managed by the AFMC Product Centers. The Air Force description of the TPIPTs highlights the integrated nature of the concept:

TPIPTs are responsible for identifying and addressing customer technology needs with an optimized and integrated AFMC response. The TPIPT serves as the primary interface between the MAJCOM and AFMC to ensure that the MAP and the related TMP budgets and schedules are fully integrated and mutually supporting. The TPIPTs consist of a team of users, development planners, systems engineers, scientists, logisticians, and test engineers that tap all AFMC organizations and expertise to respond to customer needs. The TPIPT provides support to the Mission Area Planning process during all phases from MAA through development of the MAP.148

The TPIPT members are often the middle managers who have the expertise to know what will work either operationally or technically and the freedom to be innovative. Accessing this type of group has been the key to generating new knowledge in Japanese companies, which raises a “middle-up-down” path to innovation.149 A central idea is the empowerment of these middle managers by the senior leadership in the corporations, an issue that should be carefully considered by senior AF leadership. Thus, the TPIPT process seems well designed to bring together all the organizations that have a vested interest in developing new technology to meet operational deficiencies. Figure 7 shows the flow from user requirements to the start of the acquisition process that provides the systems to accomplish the missions identified at the first stage.


Figure 7. The Air Force Modernization Process150
The TPIPTs develop the Mission Needs Statement (MNS) or Operational Requirements Document (ORD) that then justify the development program to be considered for the AF Program Objective Memorandum (POM) to obtain funding and begin the development process. Because the POM process only occurs every two years, starting a new program can take several years, and then completing that program a number of additional years.


The long road to acquiring new systems is filled with challenges, and this discussion has ignored the many levels of review that occur from the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) down through the services. There are numerous problems with the current acquisition process.151 Buying effective and reliable high-technology weapons systems is a complicated and time-consuming if the final product is to perform under the ultimate test of battle.



Many of the “lasers in space” concepts can be pursued through the normal acquisition process. The technical challenges in such concepts as power beaming, space debris clearing, and space-based laser weapons are substantial enough that an accelerated process would not result in fielding systems sooner than the normal process. The TPIPTs are the right place to integrate these concepts into the Mission Area Plans and then into the POM process. Other space-based laser concepts, such as the higher scored concepts, would benefit from a more rapid transition from the laboratory to the field. Alternative approaches to ‘fast-track’ concepts into demonstrations and then into fielded systems are discussed next.

ATD and ACTD Approaches
The Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) and Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) programs were designed as pre-acquisition activities to “develop, demonstrate, and evaluate emerging technologies” to accelerate the normal acquisition process.152

The ATDs are specifically intended to “demonstrate the feasibility and maturity of an emerging technology” which is appropriate for several of the space-based laser concepts.153 The technologies are usually at the “6.3" stage of development, meaning that they are fairly well understood and ready for pre-prototyping. By formalizing a technology experiment into an ATD, increased priority, better protection of funding, and heightened visibility are achieved, at the cost of increased paperwork to gain approval of the ATD. The laboratories manage and execute the ATDs, which may not be tied to a specific system concept. Coordination with appropriate TPIPTs ensures the operational users’ full awareness of the demonstration.

Specifically, the Space-Based Battlefield Illuminator could be developed as an ATD. A carbon dioxide laser could be integrated with an IPSRU pointing system, a prototype control system, and a telescope system to illuminate a location on an AF test range during an orbital pass. A FLIR system would be used to evaluate the performance of the SB-BI. The ground spot size would not need to be as large as an operational system, thus decreasing the required energy from the laser to achievable levels. Several incoherent CO2 lasers could be used and combined incoherently in the output optical system. A variety of targets could be placed at the test range to study the increase in visibility attained with the SB-BI. Such a demonstration would prove the concept for multiple applications, including aircraft FLIR systems, reconnaissance systems, and NVD usage by ground troops.

The ACTDs are “designed to respond quickly to an urgent military need.”154 Usually the technologies are more proven than in an ATD, and the goal is more focused on proving the military utility of a concept. The ACTD often leaves a limited residual capability in the hands of the warfighter. For example, the Predator ACTD is demonstrating the unmanned aerial vehicle concept in the Balkan deployment.155 The ACTDs are more formally approved, with final approval at the OSD level by the Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology. If the concept proves itself, the acquisition process can be greatly accelerated. The ACTD is jointly managed by the operational command and the acquisition community.

The Space-Based Laser Target Designator is based on sufficiently mature technology to qualify for an ACTD. The laser device could be developed with current diode-pumped solid state Nd:YAG lasers. The output telescope is within current capabilities, and the IPSRU pointing system has been demonstrated. The integration of the hardware with an adequate control system that includes man-in-the-loop oversight of the laser firing could be achieved with a focused effort. The high payoff of increased stand-off range is the motivation behind pursuing the SB-LTD ACTD.


The laser would be directed at a ground target at a test range such as White Sands Missile Range in coordination with the release of a laser-guided bomb from a high altitude aircraft. While the initial package could be flown in a Space Shuttle mission, a dedicated satellite would be more appropriate in order to leave a residual capability. The simultaneous integration of a laser guidance package on cruise missiles like the CALCM or TLAM would complete the SB-LTD ACTD for a militarily significant stand-off capability.

The ATD and ACTD approaches are becoming more entrenched, and thus more bureaucratized with documentation and approval cycles. The senior leadership needs to guard against stifling the innovation that has been successful in previous and current demonstrations. Reducing oversight would increase the risk but also increase the potential payoff for the warfighter.

Smart Buyer” Approach
Other methods are being tried, such as being a “smart buyer” and monitoring the private sector so that some requirements can be met by buying commercial products off-the-shelf or bought with slight modification. Examples include handheld GPS units for KC-135 cockpits (pending installation of permanent receivers), commercial desktop computers, and medical technology.

Several space-based laser concepts lend themselves to the “smart buyer” approach. The deep space altimeter has already been developed by NASA and could be readily incorporated in AF vehicles. The laser communication systems have attracted substantial interest from NASA and industry and are being co-developed with the DOD. This particular concept should be pursued more aggressively.

The concepts that use space-based, active remote sensing have been demonstrated by NASA on their LITE shuttle mission and offers another area for joint NASA-DOD development. The “smart buyer” concept would drive the DOD to work closely with NASA and its commercial partners to develop DIAL systems for military applications. An ACTD for using DIAL systems for BDA could be the next logical step.

Informal Transitions
In other instances, researchers are working informally with the warfighters to build small-scale, proof-of-concept systems for the operators’ evaluation. Concepts that prove viable can then be pushed through the formal acquisition process more quickly. An excellent example was the recent evaluation of laser illuminators developed by the Phillips Laboratory’s Lasers and Imaging Directorate and deployed with Marines in Somalia. The real-life experience gave invaluable feedback to both the researchers who refined their design and the operators who saw the significant potential for enhancing their mission accomplishment.156

One possible concept that could be pursued informally is the space track accuracy improvement. By putting a GPS-augmented, LIDAR system on a shuttle mission and illuminating a variety of satellites, improvements to the existing space object catalog could be demonstrated as a side-benefit from the technology experiment, and might convince Space Command to endorse an autonomous system of LIDAR satellites.

Air Force Battlelabs
The latest effort to bring innovation into the development process is the decision at the 1996 Fall Corona Conference to create six “battlelabs” with the charter to “identify innovative ideas and to measure how well those ideas contribute to the mission of the Air Force.”157 In part, the AF battlelabs will serve similar functions as the Army’s Battle Laboratories and the US Marines Warfighting Lab, evaluating new technologies and concepts of operations in operational environments and in realistic simulations.

The battlelabs will each report to an operational command. Air Combat Command will oversee the Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab, the Battle Management Battlelab, and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab. The Force Protection Battlelab will work for the newly formed Force Protection Group and the Information Warfare Battlelab will operate under Air Intelligence Agency’s oversight. The Space Battlelab will function under Air Force Space Command. It is this battlelab that would be ideal for transitioning some of the “lasers in space” concepts into reality.

The battlelabs will only have about 20 to 25 people and a limited budget of about $3M to $5M per year. The battlelab personnel, the operational warfighters, the SPO and research laboratory personnel, and the existing TPIPTs must cooperate to exploit the opportunity for innovation that the battlelabs offer. The battlelab commander’s direct line to the MAJCOM commander should accelerate high-payoff programs.

Because the Battlelabs are intended to be a test of the operational value of different innovative concepts, the Space Battlelab would be an ideal organization to advocate both the space-based laser target designator and the space-based battlefield illuminator. The SB-LTD concept should be tested in partnership with the Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab. These two concepts would have substantial military payoff if successful. Because they are based on fairly well understood technology, that success is likely if sufficient funding and manpower is committed to the project. Indeed, since the battlelabs will have the ear of the four-star MAJCOM commander, their advocacy for projects like the SB-LTD and SB-BI would be critical for attaining successful demonstrations.

Because of the critical importance of timely, accurate BDA, another concept that the Space Battlelab could advocate, in conjunction with the Air Expeditionary Force and Battle Management Battlelabs, is the use of space-based lasers for active remote sensing of target sites immediately following an attack. The project could build on NASA’s successful LITE project and the probe beam aimed at a controlled target site in a military test range. Controlled releases of effluents would validate the system prior to the bombing engagement. Similarly, using remote sensing to determine winds over a target area could be demonstrated with the same system before the attack to improve the accuracy of the weapons.

These demonstrations would need to be done in close cooperation with the Phillips Laboratory and other appropriate groups within AFMC. The Space Battlelab’s role would be as a ‘operational integrator’ to put together a truly integrated technology demonstration. A team of operational users, technologists, and contractors needs to be solely dedicated to these projects in order to be successful. One prevalent problem in today’s acquisition arena is the overcommitment of personnel to too many different projects, leading to insufficient effort on any specific project.

It remains to be seen if any of these alternative approaches would be successful for fielding lasers in space. The ATD and ACTD processes have already produced solid results. The “smart buyer” program seems best suited for C4I systems and support systems such as medical technology. The informal process has worked on several small-scale projects but faces challenges in being institutionalized in a “rapid response SPO” so that the formal acquisition can yield quick results.


The battlelabs are coming into being during the summer of 1997, at the same time as the four AF laboratories are being merged into one ‘megalab’ called the Air Force Research Laboratory. The pressure to be innovative continues, and all of these schemes offer potential for success.

Back to Contents




The merging of the maturing laser technology with the unique environment of space offers substantial opportunities to improve the capability of the warfighter. A wide range of concepts has been discussed in this report based primarily on recent strategic planning studies. A functionally oriented taxonomy grouped the concepts to better match the warfighter’s taxonomy. A scoring process allowed a rough sorting of the concepts that highlighted several that are poised for rapid implementation. A number of different mechanisms exist for moving these concepts from the drawing board to the hands of the operational forces. The various agencies involved must now make it happen.

The functional taxonomy sorted the concepts into four major categories: enabling systems, information-gathering systems, information-relaying systems and energy delivery systems. Equally important, this taxonomy relates directly to the warfighter’s taxonomy of aerospace control, force application, force enhancement, and force support, so that the various concepts can be included in the appropriate Mission Area Plans. The new AF core competencies also are well supported by developing space-based laser systems.

Based on this report’s evaluation, the most attractive concepts are laser communication systems, laser remote sensing systems for applications such as BDA, weather monitoring and environmental measurements, space-based laser target designators, space-based battlefield illumination and several variants of laser instrumentation for spacecraft. The feasibility of lasers for the ASAT mission, both from the ground and from space, is maturing and systems could be deployed if sufficient priority and resources were devoted to this mission and if international treaties did not prevent it. The vulnerability of currently fielded satellites is higher than other target sets, making this laser weapon application more near-term than other missions, such as BMD or counter-air.

The DOD and industrial laboratories must develop a number of key technologies to bring the concepts to fruition. More powerful and efficient lasers with better beam characteristics, such as wavelength tunability and improved temporal modulation, are central to concepts such as the active remote sensing and weather characterization. Engineers must integrate advanced acquisition, pointing and tracking systems with lasers to develop a number of applications, such as the SB-LTD and HEL weapons. Also, highly automated command and control systems are needed, with on-board data fusion offering the advantage of reducing data rates, crucial to the success of several concepts like remote sensing and laser target designation.

The best operational concepts are those that increase the situational awareness of the warfighter and the ability to direct force against intended targets. The remote sensing concepts and laser communication systems aid the situational awareness, while the SB-LTD, SB-BI and remote sensing of wind speed aid the second purpose. While speed-of-light weapons would be ideal for the emerging “if you can be seen, you can be killed” warfare of the next century, the space-based laser technology is still many years away from effectively achieving that goal, except for limited applications. Ground-based weapons for missile defense and ASAT operations could be fielded sooner and the Airborne Laser aircraft (having even received the AF designation of YAL-1A) should put photons on target early in the next decade. Thus, the operational enhancement of lasers in space is firmly established.

In particular, laser communication systems and laser remote sensing systems have already been demonstrated and should be aggressively integrated into next generation spacecraft via ACTD and “smart buyer” approaches. The SB-BI concept is well suited for a ATD experiment on a future Space Shuttle mission. The SB-LTD concept would make an excellent ACTD and a high payoff project for the newly formed Space Battlelab. The requisite subsystems for these demonstrations either exist or are within reach. What is required is some effort to develop the concepts into a viable program plan and market it. The Space Battlelab should be actively engaged with one or two space-based laser concepts as quick-payoff items to demonstrate relevant innovation.

Improved coordination and contact within the R&D community and between the R&D and operational organizations are critical for efficiently moving forward on lasers in space. The AF and NASA are both developing space-based laser concepts, and, in some (but not all) cases, are working on coordinated projects. However, there would be great value in a periodic workshop of DOD and NASA program managers who are working with space-based laser systems to discuss results and problems. Such conferences should be sponsored by the major organizations like the Phillips Laboratory and NASA Langley rather than arising out of the working level. Similarly, the communication between the R&D community and the operational users should be improved by regular conferences where the focus is on workshops and group discussions, instead of lengthy, one-sided presentations in darkened rooms.

The opportunity is at hand to develop and deploy lasers in space to meet a variety of the warfighter’s needs. Diligence, commitment and vision are needed to make this opportunity a reality.


Back to Contents




The following acronyms and terms are defined for the convenience of the reader.

  • l wavelength

  • mm microns, 0.000001 or 10-6 meters

  • ABL Airborne Laser

  • ABM Anti-Ballistic Missile

  • ACSC Air Command and Staff College

  • ACTD Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration

  • AFMC Air Force Materiel Command

  • AFSPC Air Force Space Command

  • ALI Alpha/LAMP Integration

  • ALL Airborne Laser Laboratory, a modified C-135 with a large CO2 laser

  • AM Amplitude Modulation

  • APT Acquisition, Pointing and Tracking

  • ASAT Anti-Satellite

  • AU Air University

  • AWACS Airborne Warning and Control System

  • AWC Air War College

  • BDA Battle Damage Assessment

  • BMD Ballistic Missile Defense

  • BMDO Ballistic Missile Defense Office

  • C2 Command and Control

  • C4I Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence

  • CALCM Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile

  • CCD Charge Coupled Device

  • COIL Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser

  • CO2 Carbon Dioxide

  • CONUS Continental United States

  • CPB Charged Particle Beam

  • CSAF Chief of Staff, United States Air Force

  • DEW Directed Energy Weapon

  • DF Deuterium Fluoride

  • DIAL Differential Absorption LIDAR

  • DOD Department of Defense

  • DOE Department of Energy

  • DMSP Defense Meteorological Support Program

  • DSP Defense Support Program

  • DUSD(Space) Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Space

  • EM Electromagnetic, Electromagnetism

  • FLIR Forward Looking Infrared System

  • FM Frequency Modulation

  • GaAs Gallium Arsenide

  • GBL Ground Based Laser (usually referring to a weapon class device)

  • GEO Geosynchronous Earth Orbit

  • GPOW Global Precision Optical Weapon

  • GPS Global Positioning System

  • HEL High-energy Laser

  • He-Ne Helium-Neon

  • HF Hydrogen Fluoride

  • HPM High Power Microwave

  • ICBM Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

  • IFF Identification Friend or Foe

  • IPSRU Inertial Pseudo Star Reference Unit

  • IRCM Infrared Countermeasures

  • ITW/AA Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment

  • JROC Joint Requirements Oversight Council

  • LADAR Laser Detection and Ranging

  • LAMP Large Advanced Mirror Program

  • LANTIRN Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System for Night Laser Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation

  • LEO Low Earth Orbit

  • LGB Laser Guided Bomb

  • LGM Laser Guided Missile

  • LGW Laser Guided Weapon

  • LIDAR Light Detection and Ranging

  • LITE Laser In-space Technology Experiment

  • LMS Laser Mission Study

  • LODE Large Optics Demonstration Program

  • LPD Low Probability of Detection

  • LPI Low Probability of Intercept

  • LRF Laser Range Finder

  • LTD Laser Target Designator

  • MAA Mission Area Assessment

  • MAP Mission Area Plan

  • MEO Middle Earth Orbit

  • MILES Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System

  • MIRACL Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser

  • MNA Mission Needs Analysis

  • MNS Mission Needs Statement

  • MOOTW Military Operations Other Than War

  • MOPA Master Oscillator - Power Amplifier

  • MSI Multi-Spectral Imaging

  • NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • Nd:YAG Neodymium:Yttrium Aluminum Garnet

  • NM nautical miles (equal to 1852 meters)

  • nm nanometers (10-9 m)

  • NRT Near-Real-Time

  • NVD Night Vision Devices

  • ORD Operational Requirements Document

  • PAVE Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment

  • PCM Pulse Code Modulation

  • PGM Precision Guided Munitions

  • PME Professional Military Education

  • POM Program Objective Memorandum

  • PSYOP Psychological Operations

  • R&D Research and Development

  • RADAR Radio Detection and Ranging

  • SAB Scientific Advisory Board

  • SBL Space Based Laser (usually referring to a weapon class device)

  • SB-BI Space-Based Battlefield Illuminator

  • SB-LTD Space-Based Laser Target Designator

  • SDI Strategic Defense Initiative

  • SDIO Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

  • SNR Signal to Noise Ratio

  • SOR Starfire Optical Range, located at Kirtland AFB, NM

  • TACAN Tactical Air Navigation

  • TEL Transporter Erector Launcher

  • TLAM Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile

  • TMD Theater Missile Defense

  • TMP Technology Master Process

  • TPIPT Technical Planning Integrated Product Team

  • UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a.k.a. Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle

  • URL Uniform Resource Locator (addresses for World Wide Web sites)

  • USAF United States Air Force

  • VOR Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range

Back to Contents





Useful Terms

  • laser. Any of several devices that convert incident electromagnetic radiation of mixed frequencies to one or more discrete frequencies of highly amplified and coherent visible radiation.

  • microwave. Any electromagnetic radiation having a wavelength in the approximate range from one millimeter to one meter, the region between infrared and shortwave radio wavelengths.

  • radar. A method of detecting distant objects and determining their position, velocity, or other characteristics by analysis of very high frequency radio waves reflected from their surfaces.

  • satellite. Any object, manmade or natural, that orbits around another more massive body due to the attraction of gravity.

Back to Contents






1. General Ronald R. Fogleman, “Strategic Vision and Core Competencies,” Speech to Air Force Association Symposium, Los Angeles, CA, 18 October 96.

2. William P. Snyder, “Strategy: Defining It, Understanding It, and Making It,” Air War College Strategy, Doctrine and Air Power Reader, Vol 1, 1997, 1.

3. A comprehensive treatment of space, including history of the early space program, a discussion of space law, and descriptions of military space systems, is contained in the two volume Space Handbook, by Major Michael J. Muolo, Air University Report AU-18, Air University Press, December 1993. The second volume contains useful background information on the space environment, orbital dynamics, launch systems and directed energy systems including lasers.

4. A number of articles on Corona have recently been published, including Stuart F. Brown, “America’s First Eyes in Space,” Popular Science, February, 1996, 42-47; F. Dow Smith, “The Eyes of Corona,” Optics and Photonics News, October 1995, 34-39; Seth Shulman, “Code Name: Corona,” Technology Review, October 1996, 22-32; Dino A. Brugioni, “The Art and Science of Photoreconnaissance,” Scientific American, March 1996, 78-85.

5. Ralph K. Bennett, “Defenseless Against Missile Terror,” Reader’s Digest, October 1996, 102-106.

6. William M. Arkin, “Vienna meeting sets ban on blinding laser weapons,” Laser Focus World, December 1995, 62-64.

7. The author has a PhD in laser optics and has spent the past eighteen years involved with laser applications in the US Air Force. Much of this report’s discussion on the technical aspects of lasers is based on this experience with supporting references as required.

8. “Air Force awards attack laser contract,” Air Force News Service release, 13 November 1996.

9. Air War - Vietnam (New York: ARNO Press, 1978), 79-83.

10. Kenneth A. Myers and Job G. Tockston, “Real Tenets of Military Space Doctrine,” Airpower Journal, Winter 1988, 54-68.

11. Air Force Space Command Overview, “Where We Operate,” Guardian, Special Edition, 5.

12. Myers and Tockston, 59.

13. Major Michael J. Muolo, Space Handbook, Vol 2, Air University Report AU-18, Air University Press, December 1993, 4-5.

14. Myers and Tockston, 59.

15. Because there is some matter even in deep space, there is absorption and scattering of the EM radiation that depends on the wavelength. Astronomical spectroscopy of gaseous nebula depends on these effects.

16. Muolo, Volume 2, 13.

17. Muolo, Volume 2, 14.

18. Stuart F. Brown, “Reusable Rocket Ships: New Low-Cost Rides to Space,” Popular Science, February 1994, 49-55.

19. Lt Col John R. London III, LEO on the Cheap, Research Report No. AU-ARI-93-8, Air University Press, October 1994.

20. Suzann Chapman, “Space Junk,” Air Force Magazine, November 1996, 39.

21. James Trainor, “Non-Nuclear Anti-Satellite Systems in the Making,” Missiles and Rockets, 11 May 1964, 12-13.

22. Philip J. Klass, “Anti-Satellite Laser Use Suspected,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, 8 December 1975, 12-13.

23. David C. Morrison, “Scientists Say ASAT Verification Is Possible,” Lasers and Optronics, August 1989, 15.

24. Jeff Hecht, Laser Handbook, second edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc, 1992).

* A milliradian is a small angle, equal to about 0.057 degrees. A small laser beam with a one milliradian divergence would expand to about one meter in diameter after traveling a kilometer.

25. Ibid., 425-466.

26. “American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers,” ANSI Z136.1-1993 (Orlando, FL: Laser Institute of America, 1993) 3.

27. “Reagan-Era Laser Facility Seeks Commercial Users,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, 13 June 1994, 52-53.

28. “Laser Safety” course notes, Engineering Technology Institute, 30 July 1992, 18.

29. New World Vistas, AF Scientific Advisory Board, December 1995, Directed Energy volume, 24.

30. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, viii.

31. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, viii. The flexibility of a variable output power is also discussed in the AF 2025 study, as cited in John A. Tirpak, “Air Force 2025,” Air Force Magazine, December 1995, 24.

32. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, viii.

* Here, efficiency is defined as output laser power divided by required input power; thus chemical lasers can have a theoretical efficiency approaching infinity because the energy comes from the latent energy of a chemical reaction.

33. Hecht, 190.

34. Private discussions with Lt Col Marc Hallada, Laser Devices Division Chief, Phillips Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, NM on 19 February 1997.

35. The author spent over three years leading the Air Force’s laser biophysics research program and holds the highest level of US Navy certification in laser safety. The comments in this section are based on this experience.

36. Ray Nelson, “Reinventing the telescope,” Popular Science, January 1995, 57.

37. This is strictly true for any EM beam that has finite transverse extent, as all real beams must.

38. Fogleman.

39. Ibid., 3.

40. Ibid., 3.

41. Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force, Air Force Manual 1-1, Volume 1, March, 1992, 7.

42. Ibid., 7.

43. Muolo, Volume 1, chapter 3, 73-116.

44. Rett Benedict et al., Final Report of the Laser Missions Study, PL-TR-93-1044, July 1994, 1. The LMS technical report is unclassified but has limited distribution to US government agencies and their contractors. The data discussed within this present report has been reviewed by Phillips Laboratory and approved for unlimited distribution.

45. Benedict et al., 2.

46. Benedict et al., 6.

47. New World Vistas, Summary volume, 3.

48. New World Vistas, Summary volume, 68. This reorganization is underway, with the formal reorganization of the AF R&D laboratories to be completed by the end of FY97.

49. Spacecast 2020, Air University Report, Executive Summary, 22 June 1994, 1. The report consists of a number of volumes and white papers, some of which are classified. The Air University home page has a section that details Spacecast 2020 as much as possible, and includes the unclassified portions in MS Word and Adobe Acrobat files that can be downloaded. The central URL is “”.

50. Air Force 2025, Air University Report, Executive Summary, December 1996, 2.

51. John A. Tirpak, “Air Force 2025,” Air Force Magazine, December 1996, 22.

52. George E. Sevaston and Jack F. Wade, ed., Space Guidance, Control, and Tracking, SPIE Proceedings Vol 1949, 1993. The conference was held in Orlando, FL between 11 and 16 April 1993.

The abstracts for many of the papers presented at the conference can be found at “”.

53. Benedict, 47.

54. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, x, 29.

55. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, v, 30.

56. Laser Mission Study, 47-48.

57. Laser Mission Study, 47.

58. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, x.

59. Laser Mission Study, 47.

60. Timothy D. Cole, “Laser altimeter designed for deep-space operation,” Laser Focus World, September 1996, 77-86.

61. Laser Mission Study, 47.

62. Trudy E. Bell, “Remote Sensing,” IEEE Spectrum, March 1995, 24-31.

63. Ibid., 25.

64. Ibid., 26.

65. Carlo Kopp, Air Warfare Applications of Laser Remote Sensing, Royal Australian Air Force Air Power Studies Centre No. 33, June 1995.

66. Norman P. Barnes, “Lidar systems shed light on environmental studies,” Laser Focus World, April 1995, 87-94.

67. David Winker, “LIDAR in Space: The View From Afar,” Photonics Spectra, June 1995, 102-103.

68. Stephen G. Anderson, “Space LIDAR Shows California Haze,” Laser Focus World, September 1995, 32, 34.

69. This graphic was obtained from URL “” on 3 Dec 96.

70. Laser Mission Study, 47.

71. New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 9.

72. New World Vistas, Sensors volume, x, 30, 33, 36, 87-89.

73. New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 48.

74. New World Vistas, Sensors volume, 88-89.

75. Laser Mission Study, 53.

76. Ibid., 90.

77. New World Vistas, Sensors volume, 88.

78. New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 48.

79. Norman P. Barnes, “Lidar systems shed light on environmental studies,” Laser Focus World, April 1995, 87-94.

80. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 20.

81. Laser Mission Study, 54.

82. New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 9.

83. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 11.

* A corner cube is a set of mirrors arranged like the inside corner of a box, having the useful property of sending any incident laser beam directly back on itself. The “cat’s eye” has similar properties through the use of multiple, small scattering sources.

84. Regis J. Bates, Wireless Networked Communications (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc, 1994), Chapter 3.

85. Laser Mission Study, 47, 51-52; New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 55, 57; Information Applications volume, 39-40; Air Force 2025, White Paper Summaries, 12; “SPACENET: On-Orbit Support in 2025,” Air Force 2025 White Paper, 17-19.

86. “Optical Space Communications Cross Links Connect Satellites,” Signal, April 1994, 37; “Laser Communications In Space May Soon Be A Reality,” Phillips Laboratory Press Release No. 96-4, 31 January 1996. The press release is available on the Internet at <>; “US Air Force, Utah State University to Make Cheaper Satellite Communications,” Photonics Spectra, December 1996, 44; Kenneth Ayers, Jr.,

and Michael Turner, “Intersatellite Communications: A Technology Assessment,” downloaded on 14 November 1996 from the Internet at URL; “Advanced Space Laser Communication Systems,” “First Generation Space Laser Communication Systems” and “Submarine Laser Communication System,” McDonnell Douglas Laser Systems pamphlet, 1992, 6-9, 11.

87. McDonnell Douglas Laser Systems pamphlet, 1992, 9, 11.

88. Scott Bloom and Eric Korevaar, “Fiber-Free: Laser Communications Soar to ‘Unheard of’ Heights,” Photonics Spectra, February 1997, 115-120.

89. New World Vistas, Information Applications volume, 39.

90. “SPACENET: On-Orbit Support in 2025,” Air Force 2025 White Paper, 17.

91. Laser Mission Study, 47,54-55, 94-95.

92. This concept was described during a private discussion with Colonel Scott Britten who developed the concept while working on a Masters degree in astronautical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976-1977.

93. Gregory Canavan, David Thompson, and Ivan Bekey, “Distributed Space Systems,” New World Vistas, Space Applications volume, 123-145.

94. Spacecast 2020, Operational Analysis volume, 36.

95. Unpublished report and briefing, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, c. 1993-1994.

96. Laser Mission Study, 47.

97. Muolo, Volume 2, 140.

98. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 13.

99. “Special Studies Program: Laser Propulsion,” downloaded from Internet site on 23 Feb 97.

100. “Optical Communications and Power Beaming to Spacecraft,” Phillips Laboratory Success Story, 30 Apr 96, downloaded from  on 23 Feb 97.

101. Ibid.

102. Muolo, Volume 2, 147.

103. Laser Mission Study, 47; New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 13-15; Space Technology volume, 30.

104. New World Vistas, Space Technology volume, 30.

105. Air Force 2025, White Paper Summaries, 8.

106. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, xii-xiii, 20-21.

107. Neil Griff and Douglas Kline, “Space Based Chemical Lasers for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD),” Proceedings of the “Lasers ‘87" Conference in Reno, Nevada, 205-217.

108. Vincent T. Kiernan, “The laser-weapon race is on,” Laser Focus World, December 1996, 48, 51.

109. Crockett L. Grabbe, “Physics of a ballistic missile defense: The chemical laser boost-phase defense,” American Journal of Physics, 56(1), January 1988, 32-36.

110. Kosta Tsipis, “Laser Weapons,” Scientific American, December 1981, 51-57.

* One of the more extensive assessments of directed energy weapons, including SBLs, was conducted by the American Physical Society and reported in a special supplement of Reviews of Modern Physics that is over 200 pages in length. (“Science and Technology of Directed Energy Weapons”, American Physical Society Study, Reviews of Modern Physics, Volume 59, Part II, July 1987.)

111. Jeff Hecht, Beam Weapons (New York: Plenum Press, 1984); Major General Bengt Anderberg and Myron Wolbarsht, Laser Weapons: The Dawn of a New Military Age (New York: Plenum Press, 1992); Robert W. Seidel, “How the Military Responded to the Laser,” Physics Today, October 1988, 36-43.

112 .Joseph C. Anselmo, “New Funding Spurs Space Laser Efforts,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, 14 October 1996, 67.

113. Laser Mission Study, 47.

114. Spacecast 2020, Operational Analysis volume, 36.

115. Air Force 2025, White Paper Summaries, 8.

116. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 23-26.

117. Spacecast 2020, Operational Analysis volume, 36.

118. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 23-26.

119. Anselmo, 67.

120. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 56.

121. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 57; Air Force 2025, White Paper Summaries, 7.

122. Major Steven R. Peterson, Space Control and the Role of Antisatellite Weapons, Airpower Research Institute Research Report No. AU-ARI-90-7, May 1991.

123. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, 23, 57.

124. Spacecast 2020, Operational Analysis volume, 37-38.

125. Spacecast 2020, Operational Analysis volume, 37; “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025,” Air Force 2025, White Paper Summaries, 33.

126. Joint Vision 2010, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1996, 21.

127. The precise mathematical meaning of nonlinearity is unfortunately not followed in the military literature. A linear system is characterized by a linear connection between input and output, e.g., doubling an input generates twice the output. A nonlinear system is any system that deviates from this relationship. In the military concept, there is a ‘historical’ expectation of lethality and accuracy based on the use of “dumb” munitions and the PGMs deviate from this expectation, hence the association with nonlinearity.

128. Richard P. Hallion, “Precision Guided Munitions and the New Era of Warfare,” Air Power History, Fall 1996, 11.

129. Ibid., 7.

130. Benedict, 47.

131. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, x, 29.

132. Air War - Vietnam (New York: ARNO Press, 1978), 85.

133. Major Phil Ruhlman, “Joint Laser Interoperability,” USAF Weapons Review, Summer 1994, 14-17.

134. Michael F. Luniewicz et al., “Testing the inertial pseudo-star reference unit,” Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing VIII, SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2221, paper no. 2221-57, 1994. Meeting held in Orlando, FL, from 4 April to 8 April 1994.

135. The size of the spot is estimated by the formula 2.44 (lR/D) where l is the wavelength, R is the range and D is the output diameter, all in meters. A number of factors decrease the energy in this spot, but the diameter is primarily affected by atmospheric turbulence. Some of these effects can be reduced substantially by adaptive optics technology that is rapidly maturing.

136. Goodman, 36.

137. Ruhlman, 16. Also see Laser Range Safety, Military Handbook 828, 15 April 1993, A-4.

138. Laser Range Safety, Military Handbook 828, 15 April 1993, A-10.

139. Ruhlman, 16.

140. Benedict, 47.

141. New World Vistas, Directed Energy volume, x.

142 Colonel John A. Warden III, “Planning the Air Campaign,” The Air Campaign—Planning for Combat, 1988, 154.

143. Bernard and Fawn M. Brodie, From Crossbow to H-Bomb (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1973) 212.

144. “Desert Storm and the GBU-28,” Wright Laboratory Armament Directorate home page, located at <> accessed on 22 Mar 97.

145. John Brownlee, “Laser Technology Used In Somalia May Aid Law Enforcement,” Phillips Laboratory Press Release No. 95-88, downloaded from

146. See, for example, Dr. William J. Perry, Secretary of Defense, to the Secretaries of the Military Departments, Subject: Acquisition Reform, 15 March 1994 and Dr. Brenda Forman, “Wanted: A Constituency for Acquisition Reform,” Acquisition Review Quarterly, Spring 1994, 90-99. The SAF/AQ web site has extensive material on acquisition reform, especially the Lightning Bolt Initiatives. It is located at <>.

147. John M. Griffin and Victor D. Wiley, Pathways to Tomorrow: The Development Planning Process, Technical Report ASC-TR-94-5024, Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, April 1994.

148. AF Instruction 10-1401, “Modernization Planning Documentation,” 22 May 1995, appendix.

149. Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (NY, Oxford University, 1995).

150. Griffin and Wiley, 5. (Adapted after Figure 4 of ASC-TR-94-5024)

151. Lt Col Craig V. Bendorf, Can the Current Acquisition Process Meet Operational Needs?, Air War College Research Report, April 1996. Loan copies are available from the Air University Library at (334) 953-7223 or DSN 493-7223.

152. DOD Guide to Integrated Product and Process Development, Version 1.0, 5 February, 1996, Chapter 2. This document was accessed via the Defense Acquisition Deskbook version 1.3.

153. Ibid.

154. Ibid.

155. Peter Grier, “DarkStar and Its Friends,” Air Force Magazine, July 1996, 43.

156. Brownlee. Also, the story of this success is based in part on the briefing given to AWC students by the Semiconductor Applications Group (PL/LIDA) on 5 November 96 and in part by the author’s association with this group during the field testing.

157. “Air Force establishes battlelabs,” Air Force News release, 10 January 1997, downloaded from <> on 14 January 1997.

Center for Strategy and Technology
The Center for Strategy and Technology was established at the Air War College in 1996. Its purpose is to engage in long-term strategic thinking about technology and its implications for U.S. national security.

The Center focuses on education, research, and publications that support the integration of technology into national strategy and policy. Its charter is to support faculty and student research, publish research through books, articles, and occasional papers, fund a regular program of guest speakers, host conferences and symposia on these issues, and engage in collaborative research with U.S. and international academic institutions. As an outside funded activity, the Center enjoys the support of institutions in the strategic, scientific, and technological worlds.

An essential part of this program is to establish relationships with organizations in the Air Force as well as other Defense of Department agencies, and identify potential topics for research projects. Research conducted under the auspices of the Center is published as Occasional Papers and disseminated to senior military and political officials, think tanks, educational institutions, and other interested parties. Through these publications, the Center hopes to promote the integration of technology and strategy in support of U.S. national security objectives.

For further information on the Center on Strategy and Technology, please contact:

William C. Martel, Director
Air War College
325 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB
Montgomery, AL 36112
(334) 953-2384 (DSN 493-2384)

Back to Contents