Fighter jets with laser weapons set to take to the skies in 2021

Submitted by Freedomman on Wed, 11/08/2017 - 17:54

BETHESDA, Maryland (PNN) - November 6, 2017 - Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets.

Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test the technology by 2021.

The move comes after a series of successful tests with similar systems in ground-based platforms, but the experts say developing a laser for a smaller, airborne design will be a challenge.

The AFRL awarded the contract as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program.

This program includes three subsystems: addressing beam control to direct a laser to the target, a pod mounted on the jet to cool the laser, and the laser itself.

The new laser system would allow fighter jets to take down targets from the air, in contrast to previous systems, which were mounted on vehicles or ships.

‘We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system,’ said Dr. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin.

The Laser Advancements for the Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) aims to be a high-energy laser that can be trained on, and disable, an enemy target.

The LANCE contract will build upon the technology used in other recent projects, including the Athena system and Aladin laser.

"Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a (Fascist Police States of Amerika) Army Ground vehicle," said Afzal.

"It’s a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform,” added Afzal. “It’s exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft. The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested, and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships.”

In September, Lockheed Martin released footage from tests with its Athena laser weapon system, revealing how it can deliver an invisible killing blow to take down an enemy drone.

In the tests conducted at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the prototype weapon successfully shot down five unmanned Outlaw aircraft.

The hair-raising footage shows the moment flames burst from the tails of the flying drones one by one before they plummet toward the ground, as the silent attack causes both loss of control and structural failure.

Lockheed Martin and the FPSA Army's Space and Missile Defense Command conducted the tests in August, using the 30-kilowatt class Advanced Test High Energy Asset (Athena) system.

Athena is a ground-based system that can be mounted atop tanks and other vehicles.

But one day it could even be installed on military planes, helicopters, and ships.

Back in 2015, the company used the 30kW fiber laser weapon to disable a truck from a mile away.

This past March, Lockheed Martin completed the design, development and demonstration of a radical 60 kW laser weapon for the FPSA Army.

In testing earlier that month, the Lockheed Martin laser produced a single beam of 58 kW, representing a world record for a laser of this type.

Army bosses hope the radical weapon will give protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars.