According to an analysis written by Dr. Yehoshua Kalisky for the website of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), the Chinese announcement does support the claim that a breakthrough has been achieved.
Dr. Kalisky is presently a consultant to the Nuclear Research Center Negev (NRCN) and the technical manager of the VCSEL Consortium.
The researcher writes that recent items published in a Chinese scientific newspaper and in English translations reported major progress in the development of a powerful laser weapon – a “breakthrough,” according to the publications, that will enable the laser to be operated continuously and without interruption. According to the Chinese report, the improvement that enables the continuous operation is related to successful control of the thermal regime to eliminate the heat generated in the laser system.
“During the production of the laser beam, naturally lost energy is converted into a great deal of heat, and removing the heat quickly from the chamber where the process of creating the laser beam occurs is a significant technological challenge. When it comes to a solid-state laser or a fiber laser (nonexpendable laser), the heat is usually removed by cooling the crystal or the optical fiber that creates the laser beam, as well as the auxiliary systems that provide energy. This is done actively by injecting cooling liquids or injecting gases that absorb and transfer the heat to the environment. If it is a chemical laser (a laser that receives the energy required for its activation as a result of a chemical process), the removal of the heat occurs at the same time as the removal of the products of the chemical process.”
The researcher explains that the reason is that this is an expendable laser, and therefore the removal of the process’s product and the heat requires the lack of continuity in the operation of the laser. In addition, the laser activity is limited, as it depends on the availability of chemical components required to create the chemical reaction for the laser beam.
“A laser weapon system must act against threats continuously and with high reliability; therefore, the removal of the accumulated heat in any laser system, especially in a high-power laser weapon system, is a necessary condition for preventing thermal damage to all system components.”
Dr. Kalisky says it is necessary to improve the optical quality of the beam as it passes through optical components and at the origin of the beam at the launch telescope. Since this is a Chinese article about a laser that operates continuously, it must be assumed that it is a nonexpendable high-power laser (based on crystals or optical fibers), and the removal of heat occurs with a system of gas injection in the medium in which the laser beam is created and the rays are shaped. This helps in removing effective heat and clearing various impurities from sensitive opto-mechanical components.
“In my assessment, despite the resounding headlines in the Chinese media, this is not a breakthrough, but an engineering-technological improvement of a heat removal system. This improvement, in combination with other cooling methods applied in these systems, indeed contributes to the performance reliability of the high-power laser weapon systems.”