Military Aviation

LOCKHEED MARTIN TO DEVELOP HIGH POWER LASER SYSTEM FOR TACTICAL FIGHTER JET

“The development of high power laser systems show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles and ships,” Dr. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has secured a $26.3 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to design, develop and produce a high power laser system that will be tested on a tactical fighter jet by 2021.

The press release from the company said the contract is part of AFRL’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program.

“Lockheed Martin continues to rapidly advance laser weapon systems and the technologies that make them possible,” said Dr. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin. “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.”

According to the press release the SHiELD program includes three subsystems:

  • SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE), the beam control system, which will direct the laser onto the target
  • Laser Pod Research & Development (LPRD), the pod mounted on the tactical fighter jet, which will power and cool the laser
  • Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE), the high energy laser itself, which can be trained on adversary targets to disable them

LANCE is designed to operate in a compact environment, and as such, the Lockheed Martin team focused on developing a compact, high efficiency laser within challenging size, weight and power constraints.

“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 Afzal. “The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles and ships.

Actually Lockheed Martin has more than 40 years of experience developing laser weapon systems. The LANCE contract in fact leverages technology building blocks from internal research and development projects, including the ATHENA system and ALADIN laser, as well as contract experience gained from programs such as the U.S. Army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) program.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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