Peaceful Laser in Mobilization Reserve

Russian scientific breakthrough in the sphere of laser developments provides evidence that our scientists frequently get ahead of their foreign colleagues. Moreover, months are counted. Now it would be great to support investigations with prompter implementation.

Laser in Military Uniform

Tests of new electronic warfare system for upgraded strike helicopter Mi-28NM “Night Hunter” will be completed in Russia till the end of the current year. It is the laser that will be responsible for disabling guidance system of enemy missiles.
In return, the Pentagon has initiated development works for armored vehicle equipped with a laser device. This vehicle will be used for explosive device disposal from a safe range. The project was titled as RADBO. Operational trials are scheduled for September.
Let us note that striking laser weapons have been till now remained experimental. Targets for guidance, target detection and enemy dazzling were set for samples to be sent for serial production. Now the situation is changing. For example, in December of the last year the USA performed the test of a sea-based laser in the Persian Gulf. Reconnaissance drone was hit and several motor boats were damaged.
Thus, Washington has been expediting the armament race in the segment of lasers. And one should not think that Russia has no response for this challenge. “I know that such developments are in progress in the USA but I want to say that we do not lag behind in this regard”,  Commander of Aerospace Defence Forces for Air Defence, Major General Kirill Makarov said in April.

Without Defence Classification

Our “keeping up the pace” with foreign designers can be judged considering achievements in the civil sphere. It is a good thing that “defence classification” here is used much more infrequently.
On one hand, in July a patent was registered in the USA for Boeing corporation air-engine operating on energy of laser fusion micro-explosions. High-power lasers will bombard hydrogen radioactive isotopes entering the engine combustor, thus, initiating a thermonuclear reaction.
According to Boeing’s design the laser fusion engine could find its application in rockets and even in space ships.
On the other hand, in April experts of the Novosibirsk Institute of Laser Physics SB RAS developed a laser system, which could be used for acceleration of elementary particles. The technology can become an alternative for multikilometer-long colliders.
And as early as in June staff members of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences reported about development of a new type of lasers. Those are composite ceramic lasers based on thin discs, which allows the output of the device to be drastically increased.
It is noteworthy that research teams that are the largest in the country are also involved into laser technologies. Those include the A. F. Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute where injection lasers are successfully being developed. Bases of these technologies were established by Zhores Alferov, Nobel Prize winner. Semi-conducting injection lasers feature a very high efficiency for electric energy transformation to coherent emission that is actually equal to 100%. At the same time they are capable of continuous operation.

News from Production Front Line

“Peaceful laser” shall be naturally more and more widely used in production processes. So, technologies of laser induced synthesis from metal and polymer materials are offered at CRISM “Prometey”. The complex includes four equipment items: laser scanner for digitizing physical items, setting for layerwise production of polymer composite items, setting selective laser sintering and building-up. The technology allows intricate shape items to be created and repaired.
Besides, manufacturers are offered a laser welding for cold resistant steel, laser and hybrid welding for honeycomb components of ship structures and their junctions to traditional structures.
“Competency in our field is rather specific: the one who has first developed and implemented the technology is the winner”, Director General of St. Petersburg Laser Center Company, Mr. Sergey Gorny, believes. “We can successfully resist occupation of the market by foreign players – we offer better systems, which are, besides, cheaper”.

For example, products by the Laser Center are now bought by German companies. “Moreover, even before introduction of sanctions we used about 80 % (in terms of money) of domestic component parts”, specifies Sergey Gorny.
Nevertheless, in the whole, laser system manufacturers’ amount to no more than a dozen of private small and middle companies with up to 100 employees and sales less than 10 million dollars each. NTO “IRE-Polus” is an exception – it is a large enterprise in the city of Fryazino located near Moscow, whose staff amounts to several hundreds of employees.
Therefore, investment flow to this sphere could be rather more large-scale.

Production Outlooks

Today the spectrum of employment of lasers in machine building is rather wide: laser cutting and tailoring, welding, marking, deep engraving, etc.
Modern laser plants have unique capabilities: first of all, enormous processing speed and impressive accuracy. Today the laser beam is controlled with rate up to 8.7 m/s (!) with accuracy and contour repetition of 2.5 microns. And it is not a limit.
Productivity of laser systems is impressive as well. We have already gained experience of operation up to 25 thousand hours for a system. Simply speaking, those can work for 12.5 years in a single shift. Moreover we are speaking about unattended operations. In general, expected operation time is up to 100 thousand hours.
And here is one more important point. Now due to use of materials with peculiar chemical characteristics in the industry energy accuracy is in high demand. And again laser technologies ensure the above requirements due to calculated emission input into material.
So, it is important not only to heat material up to the same 900 degrees – here we are speaking about surface temperature only, while core temperature is actually different. The laser beam that is used for accurate input of required quantity of energy can solve the problem of creation of required temperatures.
Nevertheless, any attempts to implement such technologies at the company every time face problems.
“Though electric welding has previously dominated everywhere, now laser welding is used more frequently”, says Mr. Nikolay Rakovich, Shvabe Holding Deputy Director General for Research, Development and Innovation. “Our Holding conducts serious works namely in this long-run direction. So, now try to get legal approval for the laser seam. You will fail! Although it is much better, more reliable and more energy-saving”.
Simply speaking, development of industrial employment of lasers in Russia now, beside investments, requires support on the level of law-making. And here we are speaking rather about simple improvement of legislation base lagged behind modern realities than about internal industrial laws.

Let us Summarize

Russia is still capable to keep its leading positions in the laser sphere. Nevertheless, if bulk production of developed technologies is not launched, our leadership will be gradually lost. And, since this is a dual-use technology, such a loss will take its toll on defensive capacity of the country.

Oleg Pochinyuk