Abstract

In this paper, we analyze beam combining and atmospheric propagation of high-power lasers for directed-energy (DE) applications. The large linewidths inherent in high-power fiber and slab lasers cause random phase and intensity fluctuations that occur on subnanosecond time scales. Coherently combining these high-power lasers would involve instruments capable of precise phase control and operation at rates greater than 10  GHz. To the best of our knowledge, this technology does not currently exist. This presents a challenging problem when attempting to phase lock high-power lasers that is not encountered when phase locking low-power lasers, for example, at milliwatt power levels. Regardless, we demonstrate that even if instruments are developed that can precisely control the phase of high-power lasers, coherent combining is problematic for DE applications. The dephasing effects of atmospheric turbulence typically encountered in DE applications will degrade the coherent properties of the beam before it reaches the target. Through simulations, we find that coherent beam combining in moderate turbulence and over multikilometer propagation distances has little advantage over incoherent combining. Additionally, in cases of strong turbulence and multikilometer propagation ranges, we find nearly indistinguishable intensity profiles and virtually no difference in the energy on the target between coherently and incoherently combined laser beams. Consequently, we find that coherent beam combining at the transmitter plane is ineffective under typical atmospheric conditions.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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