Lockheed Martin develops laser cannon that can stop a truck from 1.5km away

6 Mar 2015

The smouldering hole following the successful testing of the ATHENA laser. Image via Lockheed Martin

The future is here and Lockheed Martin is contributing with its fibre-optic laser cannon – the Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) – capable of blowing a large hole in a pickup truck more than 1.5km away.

The 30kW laser weapon system successfully managed to blast its way through the engine manifold of the truck in a matter of seconds with a ground-based version of the system, which is being prepared as an anti-missile and anti-aircraft platform.

Elaborating on the power of ATHENA, the laser system has been developed using a technique called spectral beam combining, which uses multiple fibre laser modules to form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that is much more lethal and accurate compared with existing 10kW lasers.

ATHENA’s technology has been based on the development of Lockheed Martin’s Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) that is used specifically on small airborne targets, such as drones, using its earlier 30kW Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) fibre laser developed by the company in Bothell, Washington.

“Fibre-optic lasers are revolutionising directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer.

“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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic