Lockheed Martin breaks own record, delivers 300-kW laser weapon to US military
Lockheed Martin has delivered a 300-kilowatt laser — its most powerful laser to date — to the U.S. military's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering OUSD (R&E), the company announced on Thursday.
The laser was developed under the Pentagon's High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI), which is an effort by the department to strengthen the directed energy industrial base and improve the quality of laser beams, as per Breaking Defense.
The move comes on the heels of Lockheed Martin delivering the 60+ kW-class high-energy laser with integrated optical-dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS), the first tactical laser weapon system to be integrated into existing ships, in August.
"There were multiple vendors selected for HELSI, and Lockheed Martin really focused on expanding our production capacity internally to make sure that we could deliver this system in a timely fashion, and so we're really proud to be the first out of the gate," Race McDermott, a member of Lockheed Martin’s advanced product solutions strategy and advanced concepts team, said during a media roundtable September 15.
The 300-kilowatt laser is ready to integrate with the DOD demonstration efforts, including the U.S. Army’s Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) Demonstrator laser weapon system.
The 300 kW-class laser has a higher energy capacity
The OUSD (R&E) had selected Lockheed Martin in 2019 to "scale its spectral beam combined high energy laser architecture to the 300 kW-class level as part of HELSI, and the team recently achieved that milestone ahead of schedule," according to the release.
Rick Cordaro, vice president, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, said in the statement that Lockheed Martin increased the "power and efficiency and reduced the weight and volume of continuous-wave high energy lasers which reduces the risk for future fielding efforts of high power laser weapon systems".
"We sort of describe [spectral beam combination] as the cover of the Pink Floyd [The Dark Side of the Moon] album where you see the light coming in — in white light — and then splitting off into the different spectrums of color," he said. "Well, it's like doing that in reverse, where we take the different spectral elements and combine them into one high energy beam," National Defense Magazine reported.
The 300 kW-class laser has a higher energy capacity, which allows it to "engage targets at more extended standoff ranges, and to kill them quicker. The 300 kW-class laser has been the goal, really scaling up to those harder missions to engage threats like cruise missiles," said McDermott.
It could be deployable on the ground, sea, and air
Lockheed Martin’s laser and sensor systems director Amaan Sattar added that the laser provided a more cost-effective capability than other armaments.
"We're talking about pennies or dollars on the shot here, not massive amounts of dollars per shot as you would find with … traditional means of getting rid of a threat," he said. "So, this is actually a really important and competitive capability in terms of the cost per shot … when you take into account how much electricity each shot actually uses."
The Lockheed statement said that the delivery milestone cemented the defense giant's commitment to 21st Century Security, "developing advanced technologies that provide speed, agility, and mission solutions that help ensure the U.S. and its allies are always prepared for what’s ahead".
The company is also focusing on reducing the size and weight of the laser weapon so that it can be deployable on the ground, sea, and potential air platforms.
"This is yet another step in proving that these systems are ready and are able to be deployed as … force multipliers and as part of the directed energy and kinetic energy mix that our warfighters can use to defend against threats like rockets, artilleries, mortars, cruise missiles, UAVs and small ships," added Cordaro.