The latest Lockheed Martin laser test was a success. The target? A truck with its engine running. From over a mile away, the laser burned through the hood and the engine manifold in just seconds.
The laser system, known as the Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA), uses a 30 kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) fiber laser.
“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”
According Lockheed Martin, the demonstration was a first for an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. The company used a technique called spectral beam combining, several fiber laser modules form a single, more powerful beam. This technique provides a more powerful platform than the bundle of 10 kilowatt lasers used in similar systems.
Why is the Military Researching Lasers?
It’s a cheaper weapon. Sure, the upfront cost is more expensive – but each shot is extremely cheap.
Right now, the U.S. Navy is using a 30-kilowatt solid-state laser platform on the USS Ponce. This laser can disable boats, missiles or aircraft. How much is each shot? About $0.60. Costs go down big time when interceptor missiles can cost up to millions of dollars for each one.
You can check out the Navy’s version in action below.