Lockheed Marting begins production of a new generation of modular high power lasers this month. The first laser built using the modular technique will be a 60-kilowatt system for a U.S. Army vehicle.
Production of the fiber modules laser will take place at Lockheed Martin’s Bothell, Washington facility. The modular laser design allows the laser power to be varied across an extremely wide range according to the needs of a specific mission and threat. Its incorporation of commercial fiber laser components into easily reproduced modules makes production of Lockheed Martin’s laser highly affordable. The Army has the option to add more modules and increase power from 60kW to 120kW as a result of the laser’s modularity.
Lockheed’s Rob Afzal indicates that systems could made with 10, 20, 50, 100 of the 60 kw laser modules.
100 laser modeles would enable 6 Megawatt laser weapon systems.
“A robust laser system with minimal operational down-time results from the integration of modular fiber-based lasers,” said Iain Mckinnie, business development lead for Laser Sensors and Systems, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. “With modular lasers, the possibility of a complete system failure due to a single-point disruption is dramatically lessened. Production is also affordable due to the ease of reproducing module components.”
Lockheed Martin’s laser combines multiple fiber modules to generate an intense laser beam. The layered approach reduces the chance for mission disruption as a result of a component failure and minimizes the need for frequent maintenance or repair. While seemingly complex, the laser is easily operated by a single person.
Laser weapons provide a compliment 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.
Lockheed Martin has specialized in laser weapon system development 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. The company recently used a 30kW laser weapon, known as ATHENA, to disable a truck. Lockheed Martin intends to develop a family of laser weapon systems with various power levels tailored to address missions across sea, air and ground platforms.
They are looking at models and calculations so you would understand the utility of a leaser weapon system in the F-35.
Lockheed claims laser efficiency rates as high as 40%, and says its modular design is scalable to higher power outputs with significantly more redundancy and resistance to battle damage.
Combined with the Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control (ABC) turret the company is developing in partnership with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Air Force Research Laboratory – Lockheed says a functional airborne laser weapon could be deployed by the end of the decade.
SOURCES – Lockheed, Flight Global