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Advanced Laser Protection for Optics


OBJECTIVE: Research and develop a new and innovative method of laser protection for direct view optical systems. Such protection must provide a low-cost method of protection from directed energy threats while simultaneously not limiting the performance of a direct-view optical sighting system. DESCRIPTION: Lasers and other directed energy threats to the Warfighter are proliferating through the contemporary battlespace with unprecedented alacrity. Such directed energy weapons pose a significant threat to the Warfighter, particularly with respect to the Warfighter"s vision. Even a relatively low power directed energy threat can do significant and permanent damage to the Warfighter"s eyes. When viewed through a magnified optic, this risk goes up even further. Currently, all Army magnified direct view optics are mandated to have a laser filter unit (LFU) to protect from common threats. The LFU is an optical filter which filters out the wavelengths of common lasers. While effective, the reduction in total transmission through the optic which naturally results is often times detrimental to the Warfighter"s performance, particularly so in low-light/dusk situations. Further, the cost of such filters when purchased in very high quantities ends up becoming highly prohibitive to procurement; often times the largest cost-driver in the procurement of a magnified direct view optic is the LFU. A new solution for laser protection should not reduce the Warfighter"s ability to operate in all illumination environments; when a threat presents itself, the solution may block transmission of light, however when no threat is present the total transmission of the system should not be reduced. The multispectral nature of laser threats on the modern battlefield requires a wide band of wavelength rejection; the solution system is required to block laser threats from 0.35 to 1.2. In order to provide adequate protection, transmission must be reduced to an effective optical density (OD) of 4 (threshold), or 6 (objective). Because this is a component for use on a dismounted platform, an unpowered solution is desired, however, if power is required, power management concerns should be addressed and power requirements should be minimized. Solutions should be designed with specific US Army optical sighting systems in mind, but should be compatible with all military grade direct view sighting systems. The system must be functional in external temperatures from -20C to +50C, and must not take damage while being stored in temperature ranges from -40C to +70C. The system must be resistant to weapon fire shock consistent with the M4 carbine weapon platform. While the laser protection component itself does not need to be abrasion resistant, the final system must be able to withstand MIL-STD-810G blowing sand and dust while retaining full functionality (i.e., no depreciation of optical performance of the weapon optic due to scratched optical surfaces). Final production cost of the system (in quantities of ~10,000) is anticipated to be = $100 per unit. PHASE I: Investigate innovative solutions to protection from optical threats, weighing required protection against increased weight and potential power concerns. Select and develop multiple approaches to meeting the topic requirements. Develop initial device/component designs for at least one critical approach to ensuring high transmission through the optical platform without compromising protection. Conduct proof of concept demonstration of core technology, showing the key components in a laboratory environment. PHASE II: Conduct design review of the breadboard prototype developed in Phase I, and use that prototype as a basis to develop and demonstrate a prototype component for use on a standard issue direct view optic, the M150 RCO. The component will be capable of integrating with the M150 and robust enough for use in a theater representative environment. This prototype system must meet the environmental and shock requirements outlined in the description above. Functionality of the component will be demonstrated in outdoor environments and test ranges. Conduct testing to qualify the degree of protection afforded by the component relative to the current LFU. Redesign will be conducted as necessary, and final output of Phase II will be a production representative unit. PHASE III: Evaluate the prototype for ruggedness and producibility. Conduct production studies, and modify the design further to reduce cost of production and increase yield. Begin low rate initial production and conduct operational readiness reviews. Dual use capabilities include use in commercial laboratory eye protection, tuning output for optical communication, commercial eyeglasses, and high sensitivity CCD cameras. REFERENCES: 1. N. Kreidl,"Photochromic Glass", Leonardo, Vol. 3, No. 4, pg. 429-432. 2. 3. 4. 5. MIL-STD-1425A, Safety Design Requirements for Military Lasers and Associated Support Equipment.
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