Lockheed Martin, a global aerospace and defense company, has recently demonstrated its new ruggedized 50kW laser weapon that can integrate with the Stryker combat vehicle. This demonstration was part of the U.S. Army’s Directed Energy Maneuver-SHOrt Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) mission and verified the optical performance of the weapon to be in line with system design parameters.
Laser-based weapons are becoming a popular solution in the military industry due to changes in warfare dynamics. Enemies are now relying on drones that can be used en-masse, making laser weapons a more cost-effective solution to counter these threats.
The U.S. Army has commissioned 50kW weapons so far but is also exploring the possibility of a 300kW weapon. The greatest advantage of a laser-powered weapon is its unlimited ammunition, as long as the energy source is secured, making it ideal for deployment in highly contested regions.
Lockheed Martin’s DEIMOS System
Lockheed Martin’s DEIMOS system uses a Spectral Beam Combination (SBC) architecture that is low-cost and allows for scalability of power while retaining the beam quality fired by the lasers. This system is a critical piece of the U.S. Army’s layered air defense capability and provides affordable air and missile defense to meet the Army’s modernization strategy.
The company has also demonstrated its Layered Laser Defense (LLD) capability, which recently defeated several surrogate missiles at tactical range with just one operator needed to target and destroy the aerial threats. The LLD capability has many similarities with the DEIMOS system and is also easy to integrate into different platforms.
The U.S. Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which is currently directing the DE M-SHORAD prototyping, is set to hand the program over to (PEO) Missiles & Space at some point in 2024 after Lockheed completes all of the field necessary integration tests.
Advancements in Laser-Powered Weapons
The 50kW laser weapon is a significant step forward in the development of laser-based weapons. Its unlimited ammunition, scalability, and low cost make it an attractive option for military use, particularly against small unmanned aerial systems. The DEIMOS system is expected to be deployed to the Stryker platform as the company expands its test program this year, with full integration into the U.S. Army’s operations expected by next year.
Lockheed Martin has long been a leading player in the development of laser weapon systems for defense against a range of threats on the battlefield. These systems are designed to protect warfighters and military forces against small rockets, artillery shells, mortars, small UAVs, and ground vehicles from a distance of around a mile.
Lockheed Martin’s Fiber Laser Technology
The company’s fiber laser technology is highly efficient and produces less heat, making it easier to incorporate into various defense platforms. One of the company’s other laser systems, ALADIN, was previously tested in the field for two years with no realignment required, proving its reliability and lethality.
The company has also identified a path to mature and miniaturize its laser weapon systems for use on U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps tactical vehicles, while its modular, self-contained laser weapon system for ships is also simple to integrate.
The ALADIN system combines multiple kilowatt lasers to attain weapon-level power and the combination of multiple fiber laser modules results in a single, powerful beam that is highly efficient and lethal. The system has been extensively tested in the field, proving its reliability and lethality over extended periods of time.
One of the key advantages of the ALADIN system is its fiber laser technology, which is highly efficient and produces less heat compared to traditional laser systems. This makes it easier to incorporate into various defense platforms, including military aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships. The system’s beam control technology uses mirrors, lenses, and windows to shape a laser’s energy, providing high-precision capabilities.
Breakthroughs in Laser Weapons Technology
Lockheed Martin’s expertise in platform integration, auxiliary technologies, and laser technology make it a leader in the development of highly reliable and lethal laser weapon systems. Over the years, the company has made significant advancements in spectral beam combining, as well as adaptive optics, precision pointing, and other important metrics, such as air-flow control.
These technologies have been showcased in Lockheed Martin’s 10-kilowatt prototype system, has already downed several small airborne and sea-based targets, and its 30-kilowatt ATHENA test bed system, has disabled successfully disabled a larger truck target. The 50-kW laser weapon system and the ALADIN system are simply the latest and greatest in the company’s arsenal.
The 50kW laser weapon system is expected to be a critical piece of the U.S. Army’s layered air defense capability, providing affordable air and missile defense to meet the Army’s modernization strategy. As mentioned, the system’s seemingly unlimited ammunition, easy scalability, and relatively low cost make it a good option for deployments in hard-to-reach areas.
This next generation of laser weapon systems is poised to play a critical role in defending against a growing range of threats on the battlefield, and Lockheed Martin’s continued advancements in laser technology make them a leader in this rapidly advancing field. The future of warfare may very well be laser-weapon systems, and Lockheed’s new functional system is at the cutting edge of these developments.