Lockheed Martin has received a $26.3 million contract for a laser weapon that could be mounted on a fighter jet. The contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (ARFL) aims to have a unit capable of testing on a plane by 2021, according to New Atlas.
"Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a U.S. Army ground vehicle. 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," said Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems, in a press release. "The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD (AFRL’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator) show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested, and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships."
The project, which is described as a “protective airborne laser,” involves three different subsystems: a beam control system, the pod containing power and cooling, and the laser itself.
Lockheed Martin’s previous laser prototype, called ATHENA, used a spectral beam combining system to emit a 30-kilowatt beam that could disable a truck from over a mile away by burning a hole in the engine.
"Lockheed Martin continues to rapidly advance laser weapon systems and the technologies that make them possible," said Afzal. "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."