Published: Thu, November 09, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Lockheed Martin Developing Compact Airborne Laser

Lockheed Martin Developing Compact Airborne Laser

Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets. The new project, known as Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE), draws on past developments, including the ATHENA system, the ALADIN laser, and programs like the U.S. Army's Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI). "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".

The laser will be incorporated with two other main subsystems, including a pod that will power and cool the laser, and a beam-control system that will direct the laser onto the target. The Air Force apparently wants to one day use the lasers for self-defense. In a 7 November call with reporters, Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin, would not disclose the laser beam's exact power and which platform is planned for the 2021 test. Afzal mentioned previous comments from AFRL commander Gen Thomas Masiello, who in 2015 expressed interest in a laser generating tens of kilowatts of power. The company noted it has been developing laser weapon systems for more than 40 years.

The firm had tested lasers fitted to tanks earlier this year, but Dr Afzal said fitting them to fighter jets is a "completely new and different challenge".

"It's exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft".

"The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles and ships". When asked whether LANCE could take down missiles in the boost phase, Afzal responded that mission requires a higher power and longer range.

A laser mounted on a jet immediately conjures images from Star Wars.

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