Technology

Lockheed Martin’s laser weapon takes out a truck

Lockheed Martin recently took modern warfare a step further with a successful test fire of the company’s ground-based, 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system, known as the Advanced Test High Energy Asset, or ATHENA.

The guinea pig for this experiment was a small pick up truck, which was blasted beyond repair when the weapon locked on to its target and zapped a hole through the vehicle’s engine block from a distance of over 1.6 kilometers away. Lockheed Martin representatives said that the truck was not being operated in the usual way, instead it was parked on a platform with the engine and drivetrain running. The company said it was the highest level of power ever demonstrated by a laser weapon of this particular type. Lockheed plans to

ATHENA did this

ATHENA did this

carry out more tests of the ATHENA.

The rules of engagement prohibit military personnel from targeting each other with laser weapons (though uranium tipped bullets are a-okay), but using the ATHENA to blow everything else to kingdom come is an acceptable battle tactic, since it’s assumed that nobody will get hurt, and if they do it’s merely “collateral damage.” The point of indulging in such mass destruction is to wipe out the other guy’s critical infrastructure first, thus preventing him from launching a successful attack or counter-attack.

Recently the U.S. Navy conducted tests which proved the effectiveness of similar 30-kilowatt lasers in tracking and destroying moving targets, such as small watercraft carrying improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Though the Navy claims that they can destroy such a vessel without directly harming humans, it stands to reason that the humans operating the vessel are going to have a hard time getting out unscathed. The two military grade boats, which were situated about 1 mile apart, were stopped less than 30 seconds after the laser penetrated the boat’s rubber hull.

Lockheed stated, “The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems.”

Since laser weapons can quickly neutralize targets from long distances, they are now being studied to determine if they can be used as anti-swarm weapons; and the availability of better materials is enhancing their overall effectiveness.

Lockheed Martin’s CTO, Keoki Jackson, said in a press release, “Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems. We are investing in every component of the system, from the optics and beam control to the laser itself, to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems.”

ATHENA is an offshoot of Lockheed’s ADAM, or the Area Defense Anti-Munitions laser system, currently being tested in Sunnyvale, California. ADAM is primarily used to counter airborne attacks. which focuses on airborne threats. Lockheed also manufactured the 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative, which is the laser used in the ATHENA.

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Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh has spent twenty years working and interacting with a socioeconomically diverse population in both the private and public sectors, and has held positions in multiple verticals including content development, healthcare, customer relations management, defense and law enforcement.

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