The Heat is On

Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset 30-kilowatt fiber laser, known as ATHENA, successfully burned a hole in the engine of a small truck from more than a mile away during the first field test of the weapon system recently, the company announced March 3. The ground-based prototype took just seconds to disable the engine, states the release. “Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin 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. The test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships, and trucks.” Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, commander of Air Force Research Laboratory, told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview that USAF believes electric lasers in the 100-kilowatt range would be useful in air-to-air applications, and might be operationally available in 10 years. The Air Force’s YAL-1 Airborne Laser aircraft, which used a huge chemical laser crammed inside a 747 airframe, was able to generate power in the “megawatt class,” Masiello said.