Since 1983, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's (ARL) Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate's (SLAD) Electro-Optical Vulnerability Assessment Facility (EOVAF) at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. has provided the resources needed for SLAD to establish preeminence in the field of laser vulnerability analysis. SLAD personnel use the EOVAF to analyze the vulnerability of optics to a full range of laser threats and evaluate the impact on the survivability of the Soldier.

According to Norman Comer, SLAD scientist at the EOVAF, "In the ever-evolving world of electronic warfare, enemy lasers pose a significant threat to the Soldier."

In an instant, an enemy's laser can jam an optic and prevent proper functionality or travel through the optical train and enter the eye of the Soldier. While the direct effect on the human eye can include temporary or permanent blindness, the indirect psychological impact can be just as damaging. Even a momentary loss of vision can panic the Soldier and could imperil mission execution.

In order to thwart such threats, SLAD personnel perform laser-vulnerability analysis and determine techniques to harden the optics. To do this SLAD scientists must accurately recreate the transmission of the laser energy through the optic, monitor the optic's throughput, and determine the laser's effect on the Soldier or equipment. Based on the threat's severity, SLAD analysts are able to specify how hard the optic must be to combat the enemy's threat and recommend any necessary modifications.

SLAD is the premier provider of in-depth laser-vulnerability analysis because of the EOVAF's broad-spectrum laboratory coupled with advanced modeling and simulation capabilities. Modeling and simulation in a cost-effective laboratory environment make it possible to determine the minimum range at which Soldiers would be protected. This is important because in many cases the equipment being evaluated is hard to come by and testing is restricted or impossible. EOVAF's resources allow SLAD to recreate battlefield conditions and accurately analyze vulnerability to lasers directly from an optical design.

Due to the threat that enemy lasers pose to vision, SLAD scientists strive to ensure that Army optics offer advanced eye protection. Binoculars, rifle scopes, and other direct-view optics are in common use and expose the user to enemy-laser threats.

Scientists at the EOVAF also perform analysis to ensure that laser attack does not degrade the functionality of Army optics. Enemy lasers can jam and damage optics causing them to malfunction. The EOVAF provides scientists with the necessary resources to measure the optic's susceptibility to jamming and damage by a laser threat. They then use the information to identify ways to harden the optic and thus preserve its functionality.

Enemy threats are not the only risk tested by SLAD personnel. Another primary concern is Soldiers' being detected due to optical augmentation (OA), which is the passive signature of a Soldier's optic.

Similar to the way a human eye reflects the color red when exposed to the flash of a camera, causing red-eye effect, optics have a reflective signature when the enemy uses a laser to scan the battlefield. Energy is collected by the front optic and pumped to the focal point that is often the optic's detector, but then a portion of the energy is also reflected back out where it can be detected. This signature does not directly harm the user but it can be used to precisely pinpoint the location of a Soldier who otherwise would not be visible.

To evaluate this OA signature, workers at the EOVAF have developed highly specialized capabilities that are preeminent across the Department of Defense. SLAD scientists not only measure the magnitude of the signature but also identify the offending surfaces within the optic responsible for the reflections. This allows SLAD to provide its customers very specific recommendations for reducing their systems' OA signature.

The EOVAF is an integral part of IEPD's scientific toolkit and provides scientists the necessary equipment to set the standard in laser-vulnerability analysis.

-From the Dec. 2012 edition of the SLAD Bulletin