Lockheed Martin eyes equipping US army with military grade lasers

© Tami Chappell
Lockheed Martin, the US’ largest weapons producer, will be making laser weapons a reality as soon as October, the company’s press release has promised. The new technology will be built for US army vehicles and is said to be easily operated by one person.

The production of new generation modular high power lasers will kick off later this month, Lockheed Martin said. 

“The first laser built using the modular technique will be a 60-kilowatt system for a US Army vehicle,” according to Monday’s release. “The modular laser design allows the laser power to be varied across an extremely wide range according to the needs of a specific mission and threat.”

The new technology is said to be affordable, while its power could potentially be increased to 120kW. 

“Lockheed Martin’s laser combines multiple fiber modules to generate an intense laser beam,” added the press release. 

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Business development lead for Laser Sensors and Systems, Iain McKinnie, described the technology as: “A robust laser system with minimal operational down-time results from the integration of modular fiber-based lasers … Production is also affordable due to the ease of reproducing module components.”

The laser would be easily operable by one person. The overall idea is to offer additional support “to traditional kinetic weapons in the battlefield.”

Ideally, lasers would effectively battle massive numbers of drones, rockets and mortars, according to the defense contractor. 

Lockheed Martin has been working on developing laser weapons for over 40 years. Specifically, it has been focusing on how to direct the power the beam.

The firm’s latest development was a 30kW laser weapon, known as ATHENA. It was said to be capable of disabling a truck. 

The task now is to have a number of lasers available for various missions “across sea, air and ground platforms.” Lockheed wants to mount lasers on top of Littoral Combat Ships, AC-130 gunships, F-15 fighters, and potentially even the F-35.

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The lasers will be developed at Lockheed Martin’s Bothell facility in Washington. “We’re testing this facility out with a view to ramping it up,” McKinnie told the Breaking Defense website. “I can’t get into the exact dollar figures of the investment,” he added, “but it is certainly very high profile within the corporation.”

Lockheed senior fellow Rob Afzal added that the company is very excited about this new technology. “It’s the last piece of the puzzle. [We want] not just [to] show the science, the engineering, we also want to show the ability to produce it, deliver it, and make it real.”

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