The Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory is the United States Air Force's center of excellence for directed energy technology. With an annual operating budget exceeding $300M, the workforce of 800+ people develop and transition research technologies into military systems used by operational commands.
The Directorate operates on 4,325 acres of land with over 860,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. In addition to the numerous state-of-the-art research laboratories and testing structures at Kirtland Air Force Base, unique facilities include the Starfire Optical Range (SOR) at Kirtland, a testing site at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range, and the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site (AMOS) in Hawaii.
Strategic planning for technology development, demonstration, and transition is focused in four capability areas.
· Space Control: Monitor near and deep-space objects for seamless situational awareness
of space activities to ensure freedom of action in space
· Long Range Strike: Extend the range of ground-based and airborne laser weapon and communications systems to provide real-time force support anywhere in the world
· Precision Engagement: Surgically engage tactical targets to deliver controlled effects, from disrupt to destroy, with minimal collateral damage that includes disrupting of infrastructure
electronics and communication equipment
· Force Protection: Protect air and ground forces and assets with shields of directed energy to increase survivability and effectiveness
Core Technical Competencies (CTC)
There are four technical competencies at the center of all research and development in the Directorate. In each area, the Directorate has world-class personnel, equipment, and facilities that provide enabling
directed energy capabilities for the warfighter.
· High Power Microwaves counter electronics, protect assets, and deter aggressors with
non-lethal technology. Sub competencies include: Pulsed Power, Low Frequency RF, High Frequency RF, and Plasma
· Lasers enable precision accuracy with long-range strike capabilities at the speed of light. Sub competencies include: Gas and Chemical Lasers, Bulk Solid State Lasers, Fiber Lasers and Semiconductor Lasers
· Beam Control propagates high-quality laser beams through air on target and enables high resolution imaging of objects in space. Sub
competencies include: Atmospheric Propagation, Adaptive Optics, Acquisition, Tracking, Pointing,
and Space Situational Awareness
· Effects, Modeling and Simulation simulates and validates technology development to ensure
feasibility of desired results. Sub competencies include: Systems, Mission, Directed Energy
Effects, and Directed Energy Physics Modeling
The Directorate is organized into divisions by major technology area. Often, research capabilities are drawn from several divisions and across AFRL. The four technology Divisions are:
The High Power Microwave Division: Research includes high-power microwave (HPM) systems that disable electronic infrastructures with little to no collateral damage, HPM technology that denies access with non-lethal millimeter waves and hardening kits that protect U.S. systems from HPM attack. Technology being transferred to the warfighter includes a non-lethal weapons system that turns
away suspected enemy attackers and separates friend from foe as an option to lethal attack before lethal fire is engaged.
The Laser Division: Research includes semiconductor, gas, chemical, electric, hybrid, and solid-state laser devices with the potential to scale to weapon-class power levels and aircraft self-protect countermeasure systems. A scientific contribution includes the invention of the Chemical Oxygen-Iodine Laser (COIL) device. This technology transitioned to the Airborne Laser (ABL) program designed to
destroy attacking ballistic missiles in boost phase and the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL).
The Optics Division: Research includes improving optical and imaging systems, as well as the nation's ability to view objects in space. The Division operates the largest and most sophisticated telescope facilities in the Defense Department; conducting experiments at the Starfire Optical Range (SOR) on Kirtland Air Force Base, North Oscura Peak on White Sands Missile Range, and at Hawaii's Maui Space Surveillance Site.
The Technology Applications Division: Efforts concentrate on taking the technologies being developed by the other divisions and transitioning that research to front-line units. The Product Line Leads facilitate interactions with the acquisition and warfighter communities to define and set goals for research, development, and demonstration efforts of directed energy technology for the Air Force. The Division also supports concept development, system performance, utility assessment modeling and simulation, plus wargaming efforts to ensure our technology concepts meet warfighter needs. AFRL's award winning Satellite Assessment Center (SatAC) is managed by this Division. SatAC partners with the Kirtland and Maui sites to maintain an extensive database on satellite materials, configurations, and functionality.