Laser Focused on National Defense

Lt. Gen. William Etter, commander of 1st Air Force (Air Force North), has challenged the directed energy community to demonstrate a new laser-assisted imaging system that will extend the range and shorten the timelines for positive identification of potential threats to the National Capital Region. Janet Fender, the scientific advisor to the commander of Air Combat Command, speaking during AWS16, said the demonstration will happen “within months.” The Air Force last spring asked industry for its ideas on ways to update or replace the National Capital Region’s ground-based air defense surveillance equipment, specifically the Enhanced Regional Situational Awareness (ERSA) system, which was rapidly fielded following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Air Force wants to enable open interface and future upgrades to ERSA, which includes long-range optical aircraft identification systems and cameras and a visual warning system to signal errant pilots.