Ionatron creates a new division for specialty lasers

Published 26 April 2007

A specialist in ultrashort pulsed laser creates a new division which will focus on the development, engineering, production, and support of specialty lasers for military, aerospace, and security customers

May the Force be with you (cont.): We reported earlier this week that San Diego, California-based Ionatron (NASDAQ: IOTN) was awarded a $9.8 million contract to develop ultrshort pulsed laser energy weapon (the company was already working on an energy anti-mine system). In response to the growing interest by military and homeland security authorities in energy weapons, the company has just formed a new organization focused on the development, engineering, production, and support of specialty lasers for military, aerospace, and security customers.

Ionatron’s Laser Group (ILG) will be based in St. Louis, Missouri. The focus of the organization will be in engineering Ionatron’s laser technologies for military customers and developing new applications for these laser technologies.

The team which will manage ILG has a rich experience in developing several laser systems, most notably space-launched laser radar transmitters for several Strategic Defense Initiative experiments, the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter (MOLA) transmitter designed to map the surface of Mars, and several military laser rangefinder/target designators and electro-optic countermeasure (EOCM) transmitters. The company’s Laser Guided Energy (LGE) system uses Tera-Watt class ultrashort pulse lasers coupled with patented high-voltage technologies to deliver high energy electrical discharges to targets.

The growing interest in direct-energy weapons is not surprising. Lasers are already being used for defense applications such as targeting of conventional weapons, and remote detection and identification of targets. There are other uses as well: Ionatron recently completed the first phase of a program to use its lasers to detect and identify remote traces of chemicals and explosives in the atmosphere.

Other military applications for high performance lasers include laser imaging, spectroscopy, communications, and tactical weapon and countermeasure applications. Ionatron’s newly formed laser group will take a lead in pursuing both new military applications for its ultrashort pulsed lasers, as well as development and production programs for other more established military laser technologies.

Dana Marshall, president and CEO of Ionatron, explained the company’s strategy: “The military has found many powerful uses for lasers… [the impetus behind creating ILG is]… the potential for leveraging this capability into the expanding market and demand for advanced lasers for other military applications provides us with another potential avenue for significant growth. We also firmly believe that many of these lasers will have commercial and industrial markets, as well as uses for Homeland Security and other security applications.”