Lockheed takes a major step toward bringing lasers to the battlefield

Illustration for article titled Lockheed takes a major step toward bringing lasers to the battlefield

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has successfully demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber optic laser for military applications. It's one of the most powerful lasers ever seen — and a major step forward to getting directed-energy weapons on the battlefield.

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Described as a "weapons grade" laser, the 30-kilowatt beam combines many fiber lasers operating a slightly different wavelengths into a single "near perfect" band of light. Lockheed says the upgraded system produced the highest power ever documented while still retaining beam quality and electrical efficiency and using 50% less electrical power than solid-state lasers.

Eventually, these systems could be installed on military platforms such as aircraft, helicopters, ships, and trucks.

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Illustration for article titled Lockheed takes a major step toward bringing lasers to the battlefield

"The high-energy laser serves as the heart of a laser weapon system," said Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. "This 30-kilowatt milestone shows our commitment to producing the high-beam quality and high power needed to address a variety of military 'speed-of-light' defensive operations."

Ideally, a high power 100-kilowatt system will be required to effectively destroy military targets like enemy artillery or drones. It'll also have to maintain near-perfect beam quality over long distances. What's more, electrical efficiency will be crucial to ensuring the system can be cooled effectively and made manageable in size.

Working with Aculight, Lockheed is currently working to develop a 60-kilowatt laser.

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Back in May of last year, the company tested its Lockheed Martin Area Defense Anti-munitions (ADAM) prototype laser. Watch as it destroys a Qassam-like rocket target:

[ UPI | Optics.org | Top image: Lockheed Martin test of 10 kW ADAM]

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DISCUSSION

DavidGustafson
David Gustafson

If this thing can be made truly effective, it could make attacks upon ships by aircraft of missile nearly impossible. Replacing those weapons: more advanced mine and torpedo technologies (I assume the laser weapon can't penetrate water), and perhaps a magnetic accelerator weapon that could throw thousands of tiny pellets at extremely high velocity, like the canister artillery shells of the Civil War era (only at something like 5% light speed). Or, you could just nuke the ship from orbit — it's the only way to be sure.