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Lockheed Shows Off Ground-Based Laser System

Lockheed Martin Corp. showed off its new ground-based laser weapon at this week's Army expo in Washington, D.C.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company displayed its 30-kilowatt Advanced Test High Energy Asset at the annual conference of the Association of the United States Army, an Arlington, Virginia-based advocacy group for the service.

The fiber optic laser drew curious onlookers throughout the three-day event. Called Athena, it recently entered production for the Army and could enter the combat zone next year.

The weapon is also designed to take out small rockets, artillery shells and mortars, small unmanned aerial vehicles and small attack boats, according to the company. Using a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple laser modules form a single, powerful beam, according to the company.

Lockheed earlier this year announced that it had successfully field-tested the technology by burning a hole through the running engine of truck in seconds from more than a mile away (see photo above).

"Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems," Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer, said in a press release at the time. "This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks."

The technology is based on the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon developed for small airborne and sea-based targets and incorporates Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (Aladin) fiber laser, according to the company.

In addition to the ground service, the Air Force and Navy are also interested in finding ways to equip their platforms with laser weapons.

This summer, the Air Force and the Pentagon's research arm began ground testing a 150-kilowatt-class electric laser built by General Atomics against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The project, known as the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, or DLWS, is based on Darpa’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System, or Hellads. In September, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said he wants to put a 120-kilowatt laser weapon on a next-generation AC-130J Ghostrider gunship by the end of the decade. And last year, the Navy tested a 20-kilowatt laser aboard the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce.

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