- ‘LANCE’ contract will build on technology from the Athena and Aladin lasers
- $26.3m contract aims to design, develop, and produce system for fighter jets
- An airborne platform is smaller, presenting more of a challenge, experts say
Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets.
Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test the technology by 2021.
The move comes after a series of successful tests with similar systems in ground-based platforms – but, the experts say developing a laser for a smaller, airborne design will be a challenge.
The AFRL awarded the contract as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program.
This program includes three subsystems, addressing beam control to direct a laser to the target, a pod mounted on the jet to cool the laser, and the laser itself.
The new laser system would allow fighter jets to take down targets from the air, in contrast to previous systems, which were mounted on vehicles or ships.
‘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,’ said Dr Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin.
The Laser Advancements for the Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) aims to be a high energy laser that can be trained on, and disable, an enemy target.
The LANCE contract will build upon the technology used in other recent projects, including the Athena system and Aladin laser.
In September, Lockheed Martin released footage from tests with its ‘Athena’ laser weapon system, revealing how it can deliver an invisible killing blow to take down an enemy drone.
In the tests conducted at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the prototype weapon successfully shot down five unmanned Outlaw aircraft.
The hair-raising footage shows the moment flames burst from the tails of the flying drones one by one before they plummet toward the ground, as the silent attack causes both loss of control and structural failure.