JUST IN: Lockheed Martin Delivers High-Powered Laser Tech to Pentagon
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Lockheed Martin has delivered its most powerful directed energy weapon to date to the Defense Department, the company announced Sept. 15.
The 300 kilowatt-class laser was developed as part of the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative, or HELSI, which is managed by the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.
The office selected Lockheed Martin to develop the 300 kW-class capability in 2019. The company has delivered the laser — the most powerful it has ever developed — ahead of schedule, according to a Lockheed Martin press release.
“There were multiple vendors selected for HELSI, and Lockheed Martin really focused on expanding our production capacity internally to make sure that we could deliver this system in a timely fashion, and so we're really proud to to be the first out of the gate,” Race McDermott, a member of Lockheed Martin’s advanced product solutions strategy and advanced concepts team, said during a media roundtable Sept. 15.
The laser utilizes a “spectral beam combination architecture,” Lockheed Martin vice president of advanced product solutions Rick Cordaro said during the roundtable.
“We sort of describe [spectral beam combination] as the cover of the Pink Floyd [The Dark Side of the Moon] album where you see the light coming in — in white light — and then splitting off into the different spectrums of color,” he said. “Well, it's like doing that in reverse, where we take the different spectral elements and combine them into one high energy beam.”
The higher energy capacity of the 300 kW-class laser allows it to “engage targets at more extended standoff ranges, and to kill them quicker,” said McDermott. “The 300 kW-class laser has been the goal, really scaling up to those harder missions to engage threats like cruise missiles.”
Additionally, the laser provides a more cost-effective capability than other armaments, Lockheed Martin’s laser and sensor systems director Amaan Sattar said.
“We're talking about pennies or dollars on the shot here, not massive amounts of dollars per shot as you would find with … traditional means of getting rid of a threat,” he said. “So, this is actually a really important and competitive capability in terms of the cost per shot … when you take into account how much electricity each shot actually uses.”
While the laser delivers more power, Lockheed Martin also focused on “reducing the size and weight” of the system, making the capability deployable on ground, sea and potentially air platforms, McDermott added.
“This is yet another step in proving that these systems are ready and are able to be deployed as … force multipliers and as part of the directed energy and kinetic energy mix that our warfighters can use to defend against threats like rockets, artilleries, mortars, cruise missiles, UAVs and small ships,” said Cordaro.
Initially, Lockheed Martin’s HELSI laser will support demonstrations of the Army’s ground-based Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser system which is scheduled for laboratory and field testing later this year, McDermott said.