The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announced on May 30th that the Hybrid Aero-Effect Reducing Design with Realistic Optical Components (HARDROC team) tested a low-power, sub-scale beam director. Personnel from AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate and Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, prime contractor MZA Associates attended to the test of various aerodynamic flow control techniques to mitigate optical and mechanical distortions imparted on a laser beam leaving an airborne platform travelling at high speeds. AFRL shared a photo of test aircraft that carries the sub-scale HARDROC beam director illuminated by a low-power scoring laser during an experimentation flight.
The final design was ground-tested in an environmental chamber and a wind tunnel to assure operation and performance under load before flying on a business jet during the summer and autumn of 2022. The aircraft travelled at high speeds during the flight testing, and a number of sensors were utilised to monitor aerodynamic disturbances. The findings showed that the HARDROC beam director expands the envelope in which aerial directed energy systems may function, giving a 360-degree field of attention throughout extended speed regimes while requiring less size, weight, and power, or SWaP, than other cutting-edge turrets.