Compact Laser Igniter for Medium Caliber Cannon

Period of Performance: 03/20/2003 - 03/20/2005


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Megawatt Lasers
PO Box 24190
Hilton Head Islan, SC 29925
Principal Investigator


Medium caliber cannons, such as the Army's M230 chain gun, currently utilize a high current electrical pulse to initiate the propellant. While electrical ignition is reliable, electrical based primers are susceptible to premature ignition from EMI, EMP, or other stray or directed electromagnetic sources. In the event of a weapon jam, electrically initiated primers are dangerous as the potential for a static electrical discharge results in a risky task to safely unload and free the jammed mechanism. Furthermore, current electrical based primers contain lead styphnate, which is considered an environmentally hazardous material. The proposed effort will research the design characteristics of laser igniters, suitable for replacement of existing electrical ignition systems, as used in small and medium caliber cannons. In addition to being inherently electromagnetically safe, laser ignition offers the possibility of utilizing `Green' or environmentally friendly propellants, primers, and boosters, thereby eliminating hazardous materials used in conventional primers and possibly reducing ammunition costs. As the intended application is for rotorcraft, particular attention will be directed to minimizing size, weight and power consumption while maintaining the structural integrity to withstand high shock/vibration levels.In addition to providing a safer, more environmentally friendly ignition systems for medium caliber cannons, the proposed research effort will benefit other laser ignited armament systems as well as provide potential commercial and military applications for miniature laser technology. Applications for the technology developed under this effort include remote sensing, such as ranging, chemical/biological sensing, laser induced breakdown spectroscopy, as well as medical applications including dermatology, dentistry, and surgery.