Boeing [BA] yesterday said it received a contract for an undisclosed amount from the Defense Department’s High Energy Laser–Joint Technology Office (HEL-JTO) to continue development of a prototype High Power Adaptive Optic system.

The objective of this follow-on, 15-month contract is to apply adaptive optic technology to high energy laser tactical systems.

Boeing recently completed the first phase of development, which was a lab effort. Boeing worked jointly with SAIC [SAI] to develop the system design. The system was then built and tested in the lab.

Under Phase II, Boeing and SAIC will continue to work together, company officials said. The team will test the system with the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD), a cornerstone high-energy laser program for the Army.

To apply adaptive optics technology to the tactical environment, the High Power Adaptive Optic system will employ ultra-high speed, state-of-the-art processing and sensor technologies. The system features a beacon illuminator and deformable mirror to deliver the required high-rate atmospheric correction and high energy laser capability.

Boeing owns the overall system design, including the beacon source that is used to measure atmospheric disturbance, as well as the integrated alignment control system. SAIC provides other system components.

Adaptive optics were originally developed for astronomers’ telescopes to correct for the blurry image that occurs when wind or other turbulence distorts wavelengths of light from a star or other astronomical object. Similarly, the objective of the High Power Adaptive Optic system is to minimize atmospheric distortion to increase the amount of laser energy applied to a target.

"By minimizing the distortion of a laser beam–much like telescopes can take the ‘twinkle’ out of the stars–we can increase the amount of energy on a specific target,” said Mike Rinn, Boeing Directed Energy Systems vice president and program director. “This very small, lightweight Adaptive Optic system will enhance both the range and the power of tactical laser weapons. With this project, Boeing and our project partner, SAIC, have the unique opportunity to work with JTO to enhance the performance of a variety of high energy laser systems. Our team of experts is ready to demonstrate this advanced capability in the field."