Lockheed Martin to deliver world record-setting 60kw laser to U.S. Army

March 17, 2017
A rendering of a truck mounted 60 kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has completed the design, development and demonstration of a 60 kW-class beam combined fiber laser for the U.S. Army.

In testing earlier this month, the Lockheed Martin laser produced a single beam of 58 kW, representing a world record for a laser of this type. The Lockheed Martin team met all contractual deliverables for the and is preparing to ship it to the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Ala.

"Delivery of this laser represents an important milestone along the path to fielding a practical laser weapon system," said Paula Hartley, vice president, Owego, New York general manager and Advanced Product Solutions within Lockheed Martin's Cyber, Ships & Advanced Technologies line of business. "This milestone could not have been achieved without close partnership between the U.S. Army and Lockheed Martin; we are pleased to be able to deliver this system for their further integration and evaluation."

Lockheed Martin's laser is a beam combined fiber laser, meaning it brings together individual lasers, generated through fiber optics, to generate a single, intense . This allows for a scalable laser system that can be made more powerful by adding more fiber laser subunits. The laser is based on a design developed under the Department of Defense's Robust Electric Laser Initiative Program, and further developed through investments by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army into a 60kW-class system.

"The inherent scalability of this beam combined laser system has allowed us to build the first 60kW-class fiber laser for the U.S. Army," said Robert Afzal, Ph.D., senior fellow for Laser and Sensor Systems. "We have shown that a powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air."

According to Afzal, the Lockheed Martin team created a laser beam that was near "diffraction-limited," meaning it was close to the physical limits for focusing energy toward a single, small spot. The laser system also proved to be highly efficient in testing, capable of translating more than 43 percent of the electricity that powered it directly into the actual laser beam it emitted.

Laser weapons provide a complement to traditional kinetic weapons in the battlefield. In the future, they will offer reliable protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars. In 2015, the company used a 30kW fiber laser weapon, known as ATHENA, to disable a truck from a mile away.

Lockheed Martin has pioneered systems for more than 40 years, making advances in precision pointing and control, line-of-sight stabilization and adaptive optics – essential functions in harnessing and directing the power of a laser beam – and in fiber laser devices using spectral beam combining. Lockheed Martin intends to develop a family of weapon systems capable of various power levels tailored to address missions across sea, air and ground platforms.

Explore further: Lockheed Martin demonstrates weapons grade high power fiber laser

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Gigel
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2017
I wonder if that could be used to generate synchrotron radiation for research and cancer therapy.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2017
I wonder why we built this instead of educating our kids or fixing our roads.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2017
I wonder if that could be used to generate synchrotron radiation

Synchrotron radiation is produced when you accelerate a charged particle moving at relativistic speed (e.g. an accelerated electron or a proton) orthogonally to its direction of flight (usually in a circle in synchrotrons like the LHC...one of the reasons why this thing is built 50-100 meters underground, because it produces quite a bit as a byproduct of getting the proton packs up to speed for the eventual collisions)

Lasers like the one in the article are/do none of those things.
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Mar 20, 2017
Hardening rockets and shells against lasers is trivial.
DeliriousNeuron
not rated yet Mar 20, 2017
Now let's go practice using it shooting every missile North Korea launches and make them look like even bigger failures.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
Hardening rockets and shells against lasers is trivial.

Yep. The russians looked into this after Reagan started the SDI initiative. Rotating rockets, ablative material, dust/foil...right down to cat-eye reflector coatings that will send the laser back to the source. Nowadays you could probably even do metamateril coatings that would send the laser around the rocket.
The number of possibilities for defeating a laser is almost endless (not to mention that it's a 'good weather' weapon, only) - and each of these is vastly cheaper than the laser system.

The idea of a good weapon is that you can achieve more with less. Laser weapons are the exact opposite of that paradigm.
winthrom
not rated yet Apr 08, 2017
The usefulness of any weapon is dependent on the mission. For example, a fighter aircraft is useful when ground defenses are poor, the weather is good, and the opposition is weak; but the same aircraft can lose when these elements are sufficiently enhanced. The ground laser weapon will be used where the mission allows it to be successful. Examples might be: As a supplement to "Iron Dome" defenses; In desert environments against shoulder fire missiles; Against suicide vehicles from encircled ISIS enclaves; Against drones carrying hand grenades (ISIS); Against snipers (beyond kill range but within blinding range); etc. An airborne version could do similar damage from above. How much enemy preventative measures are applied to enemy aircraft, soldiers, etc., is cost and encumbrances to those assets and is often not even available to them. Their supply chain must reload any vulnerable munitions to deal with this new capability. We should not expect much from ISIS, etc.

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