More reports on: Defence general

Lockheed Martin develops lightweight laser for defence applications

20 March 2017

Lockheed Martin says it has completed work on a 60 Kilowatt (kW) laser system, which will be handed over to the US Army.

The aerospace and defence contractor said in a statement last week, in tests earlier this month, the laser beam system achieved a 58kW blast, a world record for a laser of the type.

"We have shown that a powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low-volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air," said Robert Afzal, senior fellow for Laser and Sensor Systems at Lockheed, CNBC reported.

According to Afzal, the Lockheed Martin team created a laser beam that was near "diffraction limited," which meant it was close to the maximum limit for focusing energy toward a single, small spot.

According to Lockeed, the laser would act as a complementary weapon on the battlefield and would prove especially effective in disabling drones or incoming rockets.

In 2015, the company's 30kW laser weapon, ATHENA had successfully disabled a truck from a mile. (See: Lockheed Martin's laser weapons system destroys small truck in seconds)

Solid state laser technology could offer a cheap option to defend against incoming attacks, according to experts.

According to the company, the laser was a "combined fibre" laser beam, that brought together individual lasers to form a single, stronger beam. The company had tested the laser at an installation in Bothell, Washington, and planned to ship it to an Army installation in Huntsville, Alabama, in the next few months.

"We're really at the dawn of an era of the utility of laser weapons," said Robert Afzal, senior fellow for laser and sensor systems at Lockheed Martin, US military newspaper Stars and Stripes, reported. The army's specialised military vehicles "can now carry something which is small enough and powerful enough for what we believe will be militarily useful."

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