Lockheed Martin has increased the power of its laser weapons to half a megawatt

(ORDO NEWS) — Lockheed Martin has announced that it has upgraded its 300kW laser system to 500kW under a new contract with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Development (OUSD (R&E)).  The move is part of the second phase of the High Energy Laser Weapon Scaling Initiative (HELSI), which aims to increase the power of solid-state laser weapons to deal with larger, heavier and more agile threats.

Lasers have been an attractive proposition in military circles for six decades, thanks to their ability to intercept targets at the speed of light and operating costs as low as one dollar per shot. However, the practical use of laser weapons on the battlefield was delayed due to the need to make such systems sufficiently light, compact, reliable and powerful.

The laser is generated by coils of optical fibers doped with neodymium yttrium aluminum garnet and is integrated into a system that includes a target illumination laser (TILL) for fixing and tracking targets and a beacon illumination laser (BILL) for measuring atmospheric distortions, which are compensated by adaptive optics.

They, as well as a high-energy laser, in turn, are connected to a combat control system that monitors the area, tracks and evaluates potential targets, and determines the level of threats.

Lockheed Martin’s challenge is to increase the power of the weapon without compromising its ability to combine multiple beams in the spectrum used to generate the output laser and the quality of the output beam, while adhering to DoD Modular Open System Approach standards for interoperability and multi-mission integration.

“OUSD (R&E) is investing in the development of high-energy lasers to support the US military,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president of Mission Systems & Weapons at Lockheed Martin.

At the same time, Lockheed Martin has invested in our manufacturing infrastructure in anticipation of the Department of Defense’s demand for laser weapons that have additional levels of protection with deep magazines, low cost per shot, high light delivery speed, and high responsiveness that reduces logistics requirements. The 500-kilowatt laser will build on our successes with the 300-kilowatt system and the lessons learned from older programs to prove once again that we can protect against a range of threats.

Lockheed Martin is not the only company working on laser weapons. Raytheon is also developing a directed energy weapon that uses a powerful microwave beam to disable drones and other unmanned systems. Northrop Grumman is also developing a solid-state laser weapon system to defend against drones, missiles, artillery and mortars.

The development of laser weapons is not without controversy. Some experts express concerns about the legality of the use of such weapons under international law, while others question their effectiveness against more advanced military technologies. However, the US military continues to develop laser weapons in an effort to maintain technological superiority over potential adversaries.


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