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Researchers at BAE Systems believe that within the next 50 years, battlefield commanders may deploy a new type of directed energy laser system, called a Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL), which is capable of enhancing commanders’ ability to observe adversaries’ activities over much greater distances than existing sensors.

At the same time, the lens could be used as a form of ‘deflector shield’ to protect friendly aircraft, ships, land vehicles and troops from incoming attacks by high power laser weapons that could also become a reality in the same time period.

As reported on BAE Systems’ site, the revolutionary concept, developed at the company’s military aircraft facility, has been evaluated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and specialist optical sensors company LumOptica and is based on known science. It works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena and temporarily manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere into lens-like structures to magnify or change the path of electromagnetic waves such as light and radio signals.

LDAL copies two existing effects in nature – the reflective properties of the ionosphere and desert mirages. The ionosphere occurs at a very high altitude and is a naturally occurring layer of the Earth’s atmosphere which can be reflective to radio waves. The development simulates both of these effects by using a high pulsed power laser system and exploiting a physics phenomena to temporarily ionise or heat a small region of atmosphere in a structured way.

“Working with some of the best scientific minds in the UK, we’re able to incorporate advanced technologies and evolve the landscape of potential military technologies in ways that, five or ten years ago, many would never have dreamed possible,” said Professor Nick Colosimo from BAE Systems.

Professor Bryan Edwards, Leader of STFC’s Defence, Security and Resilience Future Programme said of the work: “For this evaluation project, STFC’s Central Laser Facility team worked closely with colleagues at BAE Systems and by harnessing our collective expertise and capabilities we have been able to identify new ways in which cutting-edge technology, and our understanding of fundamental physical processes and phenomena, has the potential to contribute to enhancing the safety and security of the UK.”