We have already been witness laser-based weaponry in the forms of land-based HEL MD and navy-equipped LaWS. Well, this time around Lockheed Martin has demonstrated their state-of-the-art laser system christened as ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset). The boisterous exhibition entailed a full fledged field test that aptly showed how the powerful laser could blaze through a small truck’s hood and wreck the vehicle’s engine. And this entire scope was achieved from an impressive distance of beyond a mile (over 1.6 km).
Now before one goes on a military-inspired reverie, it should be noted that the truck was actually kept stationary (upon a platform), but with its engine running. In spite of this ‘handicap’, the ATHENA’s test run is touted by its developers as being the most powerful beam ever achieved by a laser system of its kind. To that end, the laser inside ATHENA (known as Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative or ALADIN) boasts of 30-kilowatt power emanation capacity. When compared to the aforementioned HEL MD, the figure is a whopping three-times as much as the system developed by Boeing. This is because of the intrinsic technology of this particular laser being fueled by what is known as spectral beam combining – and it allows the activation of a multi-fiber laser, thus accounting for multiplied power.
Beyond the ambit of power, the successful test was also the very first time the Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative was actually activated in practical field conditions. This is what Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s CTO has to say about the potentiality of the futuristic laser weaponry –
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 for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.