in InP is a critical development area with significant growth potential for continuing the advance of defense systems.


On the basis of the conclusions presented above, the committee makes the following recommendation in order to enable the United States to maintain a competitive position in optics and photonics for security and defense:

Key Recommendation: The U.S. defense and intelligence agencies should fund the development of optical technologies to support future optical systems capable of wide-area surveillance, exquisite long-range object identification, high-bandwidth free-space laser communication, “speed-of-light” laser strike, and defense against both missile seekers and ballistic missiles. Practical application for these purposes would require the deployment of low-cost platforms supporting long dwell times.

These combined functions will leverage the advances that have been made in high-powered lasers, multi-function sensors, optical aperture scaling, and algorithms that exploit new sensor capabilities, by bringing the developments together synergistically. These areas have been pursued primarily as separate technical fields, but it is recommended that they be pursued together to gain synergy. One method of maintaining this coordination could include reviewing the coordination efforts among agencies on a regular basis.

This key recommendation leads directly to the third grand challenge question:

3. How can the U.S. military develop the required optical technologies to support platforms capable of wide-area surveillance, object identification and improved image resolution, high-bandwidth free-space communication, laser strike, and defense against missiles?

Optics and photonics technologies used synergistically for a laser strike fighter or a high-altitude platform can provide comprehensive knowledge over an area, the communications links to download that information, an ability to strike targets at the speed of light, and the ability to robustly defend against missile attack. Clearly this technological opportunity could act as a focal point for several of the areas in optics and photonics (such as camera development, high-powered lasers, free-space communication, and many more) in which the United States must be a leader in order to maintain national security.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement