If you had to choose between using a drone or a laser to defend yourself, which would you select? The U.S. Air Force may lean toward lasers after global security and aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, demonstrated their laser's latest prowess on 7 November.
In the latest round of testing of drones vs. lasers, the latter proved themselves the worthiest direct-energy weapons of them all. Called ATHENA, the system locked onto and shot down a number of small drones during their testing.
Here's what happened.
Why are the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin trialing lasers?
Drones pose a security threat, and the U.S. military has been looking at different ways to protect the nation as well as troops internationally from potential swarms of drones attacking.
The worry is that conventional air defenses can't currently stand up to large numbers of drones swooping in and attacking a base, or the public.
In comes defense contractor, Lockheed Martin and its Advanced Test High Energy Asset — or ATHENA. ATHENA is a spectral beam combined fiber laser. This means that a number of lower-powered lasers work together to create one high-powered beam.
The company hasn't commented on the laser's energy level during their tests with the U.S. Air Force that took place at a government test range at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
"The engagement scenarios were challenging, resembling real threat environments, ranges and flight paths," Lockheed Martin said.
The importance of creating a fully functioning defence laser is a top priority for both the company and the military.
Sarah Reeves, vice president of Missile Defense Programs for Lockheed Martins said: "We've watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it's an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin's critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter."
As a transportable high-energy laser system, ATHENA allows the U.S. Air Force to place it in any spot they deem high-value and in need of defending.