USAF researching lasers to assist aerial surveillance ops in National Capital Region

By Sara Sirota / November 9, 2020 at 2:29 PM

The Air Force is beginning market research into laser projection solutions that can assist the military's Enhanced Regional Situational Awareness system that defends the National Capital Region's airspace.

ERSA uses a network of visual and infrared cameras to monitor aircraft flying in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas. If a plane unexpectedly enters controlled airspace in error, the system's lasers will generate a visual warning signal to the aircrew.

Some of ERSA's technology components date back to 2004 when the military originally fielded the system. While the telescope units and fiber-optic link that support ERSA's laser projections are still functional, the laser units themselves are no longer sustainable, and the Air Force is now searching for replacements, according to a request for information released today.

ERSA "seeks non-proprietary, open system refresh that meets or exceeds current capabilities . . . and provides a more efficient, effective, and supportable laser projection/warning system," the notice states.

The Air Force is asking industry providers to submit white papers describing their products' physical characteristics, reliability, technical support needs, production and cost. It's not clear when responses are due or if the service has a designated budget.