Lockheed Martin Tests Laser Weapon to Bring Down Drones


Imagine futuristic warfare and several movies featuring laser weapons come to mind. There’s something about regular weapons and bullets that just seems so outdated these days. An American defense and aerospace company known as Lockheed Martin has created a new laser defense system called Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA). The system uses only a high-energy laser beams to take down airborne targets.

Lockheed Martin’s laser system is a combined fiber laser, which means that it generates a laser beam through fiber optics to create an intense beam. This makes it a more scalable laser system that can be extended and made more powerful by adding some extra fiber laser components.

The prototype was tested at the US Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It was used to shoot down five unmanned aircraftswith a 100% success rate. The test was done in August and demonstrated how ATHENA’s advanced beam control systemand solid-state fiber laser can decisively destroy drones and any other UAV threat.

Lockheed released the video of the demo which showed off a 30-kilowatt ATHENA laser weapons system that was powered by a Rolls-Royce turbogenerator.

Lasers Are the Future of Warfare!

This Lockheed Martin video is an indication that the future of warfare is very close.

In the video, the movable, ground-based ATHENA focused its 30 kW ALADIN (Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative) laser on five 10.8-foot wingspan ‘Outlaws’ and shot them all down through its stern control surface until they crashed into the desert floor.

The tests were carried out by Lockheed in agreement with the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command and showed how ATHENA laser shots used the Outlaws fuel sources against them.

ATHENA is a single mode laser system that is based on Lockheed Martin’s Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) system. The system uses a method that Lockheed Martin calls SBC (Spectrum Beam Combining), which involves the use of fiber laser modules made of rare elements like ytterbium, erbium, or neodymium. The laser system can be several miles away with optical flexible fibers for greater gain. This distance is not a problem and actually takes up less space because the fiber can coil like a rope.

The tests at White Sands against aerial vehicles confirmed how lethal the system was and replicated the results previously seen against static targets at the test range, says Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer, Keoki Jackson. As time passes, the technology behind laser weapon systems will be more effective and move closer to laser weapons and will offer greater protection to warfighters by taking on more advanced threats than the 5 Outlaws.

Army bosses hope that this advanced weapon will provide more protection against threats like swarms of drones or several rockets and mortars all deployed at the same time. Maybe one day, ATHENA will be installed on military planes, helicopters, ships and many other defense infrastructures.

Lockheed Martin and the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command are currently analyzing the data from the test to help make the system better, develop better model predictions, and create future laser systems.


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