High Energy Laser Weapon Systems Short Course
15 July - 8 September 2013 Distance Learning Offering

Course Details   Instructors   Course Options   Current Schedule   Fees & Registration

Course Overview

This short course provides an overview of high energy laser (HEL) weapon systems. The course is offered by the Center for Directed Energy (CDE) at the Air Force Institute of Technology. DEPS, with funding from the HEL Joint Technology Office, sponsored the CDE in development of this short course.

Student Comments

"One of the best short courses I have taken!"

"Every lieutenant in AFRL should take this course."

"It covered a lot of ground at a good pace."

"Instructors were extremely knowledgeable and did a great job."


The course is offered in distance learning and classroom modes. Both cover the same material.

Lead Instructor:
Dr. Steven Fiorino, AFIT

Students earn 3.2 CEU from DEPS for successful completion of the course. Student performance is assessed by a series of pass-fail written exercises.

Intended Students
The short course assumes that the registrants hold undergraduate degrees in engineering or science and are interested in an overview of HEL systems at some technical depth. The course is Unclassified, Limited Distribution C. Participation is restricted to students who are employees of the U.S. government or of U.S. government contractors.

Course Details

A thorough presentation of HEL weapons systems is developed. The course provides a complete overview of laser weapon systems, including laser devices (chemical, solid state, and free electron), laser subsystems (power, thermal management, fluid supply), beam control (beam directors, tracking and control, adaptive optics), atmospheric propagation, targets and lethality, engagement scenarios, and weapon system performance. The course emphasizes concepts, terminology, current technological capabilities, and systems concepts. The course does not develop key relationships from first principles. Limitations on the effectiveness of HEL weapons and key performance trade-offs will be addressed. Application of these concepts to current systems will include the historical Airborne Laser Laboratory, Airborne Laser, Tactical High Energy Laser, Advanced Tactical Laser, and Space-Based Laser programs. The effectiveness of HEL weapons on the battlefield will be simulated using engagement and mission level models. The course includes a number of extended, worked problems, including a simplified calculation of weapon effectiveness for a high altitude, long range, air-to-air engagement.

Airborne Laser

  • The promise of HEL weapons
  • Introduction to concepts of systems engineering
  • Overview of HEL weapon systems
  • Fundamentals of laser devices
  • HEL devices
  • The atmosphere
  • Beam control systems
  • Lethality
  • HEL weapon systems
  • Laser weapon system effectiveness

Course Instructor

Steven Fiorino, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Physics (BS, MS, Ohio State University; MMOAS, Air Command and Staff College; BS, PhD, Florida State University). Dr Fiorino’s research experience includes microwave remote sensing, evaluating uncertainty in high-energy laser engagement due to atmospheric effects, and improving microphysical characterizations for nuclear fallout, transport, and dispersion.

Course Options

Distance Learning Mode

This mode is mostly asynchronous. The lecture content is prerecorded and can be viewed at any time at the convenience of the student. Lectures are viewed in a web browser and can be downloaded from - or streamed over - the internet. (Both delivery modes are made available, in case a student has problems with one or the other.) More detailed access instructions will be provided upon registration.

The asynchronous lectures are supplemented by synchronous sessions using a webinar service. These sessions are designed to give instructors live "face time" with students, for Q-and-A, and for reinforcing lesson concepts. These meetings also facilitate student-to-student interaction, which is often a valuable tool in the graduate learning setting. To join these web conferences, students will need an internet-connected computer and a telephone. These sessions meet for an hour or so; attendance is not mandatory but highly encouraged. Specific meeting times are determined after students have been polled at the outset of the course.

Aside from the weekly webinar sessions of 60 - 90 minutes per week, students can set their own schedule for the course. Nevertheless, students must complete the course within eight weeks.

System requirements include high-speed internet access and a telephone. AFIT uses Microsoft Live Meeting as its webinar service provider. To join the meeting, ideally a small plug-in is installed on the student's computer. This is a one-time installation. If this cannot be accomplished, such as for lack of privileges on the employer's network, the student will still be able to join.

Classroom Mode

The classroom mode is the traditional approach, based on lectures to students who are physically present in the same room as the instructor. The 32-hour course schedule for the classroom mode from mid-day Monday through mid-day Friday makes weekend travel unnecessary for most attendees. This course has been offered in Albuquerque, NM and College Park, MD. It is not currently scheduled.

If you prefer to learn in the classroom mode, let us know by email at Please tell us not only that you are interested in a classroom offering of this course, but also whether you would prefer an East Coast or West Coast location and the best months in the next year for you to take the course. This course can also be offered at an organization's facility under contract. This approach can be most economic for organizations with a dozen or more students. Please contact us at the email address above to discuss options.

Current Schedule of Offerings

This course was last offered online from 15 July through 8 September 2013 and is not currently scheduled for another offering.


The fee for the Distance Learning offering of this course is $1295, which includes the textbook, access to the web-based material, and participation in the weekly webinar.

The classroom mode registration fee of $1695 includes all course materials.


Call DEPS at 505-998-4910.

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Last updated: 17 October 2013