Funded by the Missile Defense Agency, Strategic Illuminator Laser (SILL) is a diode-pumped, solid-state, next-generation illuminator laser. In 2006, SILL met all technical performance requirements when it demonstrated multi-kilowatt-class average output power, operating at 5 kHz, with outstanding beam quality for a run time of five minutes. The tests proved that the SILL is the highest power, brightest laser of its kind ever built.
Illuminator lasers are critical components of all high energy laser weapon systems. They are used in conjunction with tracking sensors to help point the laser weapon at the target. They also are used in conjunction with wavefront sensors to help clean up distortion in the laser beam caused by the atmosphere and other parts of the weapon's optical system so that the beam can be focused to a smaller spot at the target.
The SILL program began in April 2003 with a competitive Phase 1 trade study, and the SILL Phase 2 program initiated a significant risk reduction effort designed to demonstrate the technologies necessary to obtain higher power and excellent beam quality simultaneously. Additional work in Phase 2 focused on component ruggedization and packaging designs needed for a compact, lightweight brassboard.
The current phase, Phase 3, takes these technologies to the next level in the fabrication, integration and test of a deliverable, compact, lightweight brassboard device.