Intro to laser  systems 






Laser is  a device that generates an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light (by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules. Lasers have found  a long series of applications in almost all areas of technology. Below are presented basic types of dual use  lasers that are  used  in defense/security applications.

There are seven most popular military type laser systems:

  1. Laser pointers
  2. Laser illuminators
  3. Laser range finders
  4. Laser designators
  5. Laser seekers
  6. Laser spot trackers
  7. High energy/power lasers

Laser pointers are continuous (more rarely pulsed) lasers of that emits laser beam at narrow  divergence angle ( below 1º). They  typically emit lights at wavelengths in visible - near infrared range (from about  500nm to about 900nm.  The aim is to create bright light spot that could be seen by friendly forces using night vision devices, VIS-NIR cameras (TV cameras) or using naked eye in case of use of visible pointers.

Laser illuminators  are basically the same lasers as pointers but having different optics. Due to this change  they emit laser beam in wider  angle (up to about 10º). The aim is to increase illumination of area of interest at dark night conditions and  to enable creation of non-noisy image of this area by VIS-NIR cameras/NVDs sensitive to light emitted by laser illuminators (typically in spectral band from about 800nm to about 1000nm. Due to similar design there are laser systems that can work in two modes: 1)pointer, 2)illuminator.

Laser range finder is a laser system that uses a laser beam to determine the distance to an object. The most common laser rangefinders operate on the time of flight principle. The distance is measured on basic of time between emission of a laser pulse by transmitter and time to record  reflected laser pulse by the  receiver.  The aim of use is to measurement of distance to target of interest. This type o laser system is of critical importance to enable precision aiming of military weapons.

Modern long/medium  range LRFs typically emit light pulses at 1550nm windows (1530nm, 1550nm or 1550nm). Some  long/medium range LRFs  can use 1060nm wavelength. There are also some short/medium range LRFs that operate at 910nm wavelength.  LRFs that  emit light pulses at 1550nm windows are considered as eye safe LRFs.

There are two main types of LRFs: 1)monopulse, 2)multipulse. The first type needs to emit only one strong pulse to  measures distance (but can emit a series of such pulses). The second one needs to emit a series of lower intensity pulses to measure distance (emission time up to a second).

Laser designator is a laser system that  emits a series of high intensity pulses  of precisely determined temporal properties (frequency/ temporal intervals).  The aim is to indicate illuminated target for laser weapons (laser seeker, laser spot tracker). The non-imaging weapons can determine precisely angular position of designated target.  Laser designators typically emit light at 1060nm due to avilable   pulse laser modules that offer emission of laser pulses of high pulse energy at very narrow divergence angle. Some modern designators emits light pulses in 1550nm band.

Laser seeker is a type of intelligent  munitions capable to guide itself to target designated by a laser designator. The designator can be located on the same platform (aircraft, helicopter, UAV), or on other air/ground/navy platforms, or even can be used by foot soldiers.

 Laser seeker head is a non-imaging system build by combining three modules: 1)quadrant photodiode, 2)optical objective, 3)gyroscope. This head gives information of relative  angular position ( if target is located in one of four sectors or that is in center of field of view) to enable homing to irradiated target.

Laser spot tracker is laser system similar to laser seeker. It is built using similar laser head but is not a part of munitions but a part of airborne/ground/naval platforms. Its task is to detect  in its field of view presence of a target designated by a designator (external or internal) and to slews the turret's line of sight to track movement of the target. 

High energy/power  lasers  are lasers capable to emit laser beam of extremely high power/pulse energy that can be used as directional weapons. It can be estimated that CW laser of power over 1kW or pulse laser of pulse energy over 1J belong to this class.


Attention: this educational section have been developed to answer commonly asked  questions about  lasers in defense applications. However, please note that Inframet is not a  manufacturer of military laser systems but a manufacturer of general purpose EO test systems.  Therefore it can deliver only basic know how in field of laser systems for defense/security applications.   Please contact manufacturers of military laser systems for more detail information.