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L3Harris Directed Energy Beam Directors – A Key Component to Critical Asset Protection

Integrated Mission Systems
Jun 22, 2023 | 3 MINUTE Read

For nearly 25 years, L3Harris has been designing and manufacturing beam director assemblies (BDAs) and making technology innovations that have led the way to fielding BDAs. A BDA points the beam of laser light, much like a gun points a bullet. The BDA points the beam of light onto the target. L3Harris continues to drive product innovation because of the critical role directed energy systems have in the protection and defense of freedoms worldwide. To decrease the cost of systems and push the technology forward, L3Harris manufactures and engineers its BDA solutions in Mason, Ohio, where its focus on technology, capability, historical knowledge and extensive experience help to solve the big mission challenges.

L3Harris has led the way in directed energy, pioneering revolutionary advancements in weapon systems. The technological advances have led to off-axis BDAs, tracker advancements and novel optical technology to answer today’s threats. Off-axis beam directors allow the unobscured optics to deliver more power on target. Delivering as much as 20 percent more power allows the warfighter to more quickly engage and neutralize a threat at longer range - on land, in the air or at sea. Faster target engagement at greater distances and increased lethality mean greater protection for warfighters and critical assets. Off-axis BDAs limit proximity radiation enabling safer operation. These BDA systems perform reliably and safely give the operators security and confidence for mission success. 

A key to directed energy systems is optical tracking accuracy and wavefront performance. The optical system performance is superior due to low wavefront errors that provide greater contrast and increase the fine and course tracking abilities of the system. The L3Harris-developed algorithms allow the system to increase the speed in which it can engage targets and allow the system to reduce and eliminate scene clutter. Scene clutter is endemic to imaging systems and adds complexity for the operator. By reducing image clutter the systems are more effective and enable the warfighter to focus on the inbound objects including land vehicles, boats, UASs, mortars and rockets. 

L3Harris’ BDAs use fast-steering mirrors and cameras that increase the bandwidth of the system, by reducing jitter which degrades the performance of the system. L3Harris engineers have designed low-jitter equipment for use on land, air, sea and in space, the most familiar low-jitter equipment made by L3Harris is the Kineto Tracking Mount (KTM). The KTM is used on test ranges to track targets and test weapon systems. The company’s BDA systems have rapid slew rates and greater position accuracy enabling faster engagement against targets. This allows the system to quickly locate and neutralize targets, giving greater advantage when engaging swarms of targets operating independently or as a pack. 

L3Harris beam director systems are also laser-agnostic. L3Harris has provided systems for all branches of the military and have integrated BDAs into many laser systems. L3Harris has established a standard BDA and beam control system approach to enable a faster maturation path for laser system weapon developers, offering designs from low to extremely high-power intensities. Fast engagement time, the ability to counter radically maneuvering missiles, precision engagement and graduated response make laser weapons an asymmetric technological advantage. L3Harris’ BDAs proven performance provides precision pinpoint accuracy and minimal collateral damage – critical for directed-energy weapon success.

An L3Harris beam director recently underwent sea trials and successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle. A similar delivered system for integration in 2021 will have sea trials in 2023. L3Harris’ directed energy capabilities will be strengthened as the company continues to invest in continued maturation of these technologies in response to customer needs. L3Harris remains an industry leader in providing advanced directed energy solutions that deliver force-multiplying, asymmetric systems that provide security to today’s warfighters. 

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