Lockheed Martin has just been awarded a US$26.3 million contract by the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) for design and development of a high-tech laser weapon to be installed in a tactical fighter jet by the end of 2021. The project, being a part of AFRL Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), aims to develop new laser systems for fighter jets.
Five 10.8-ft (3.3-m) wingspan Outlaw drones were shot down by Lockheed’s ground-based ATHENA system earlier this year using the help of 30-kW Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) laser pointed towards their stern control surfaces. The laser burned the drones down successfully. Due to their flexibility, these lasers can go thousands of meters using very little space.
“Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a U.S. Army ground vehicle,’ said senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin, Dr. Rob Afzal. “It’s a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform. It’s exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft. The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD shows laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships.”
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