Lockheed Martin eyes equipping US army with military grade laser.
WASHINGTON: “Lockheed Martin is working to fly a laser on tactical fighters within the next five years,” Lockheed laser expert Mark Stephen told reporters yesterday afternoon. “We’re spending a lot of time to get the beam director right.”
That beam director, which keeps the laser beam on target, is a crucial but easily overlooked component of the Air Force Research Lab’s SHiELD program.
SHiELD aims to put defensive laser pod on fighters to defend them against incoming anti-aircraft missiles. An offensive laser to shoot down enemy aircraft would have to hit harder and at longer distances, so it’s a more distant goal: Such weapons are envisioned for a future “sixth generation” fighter — like the NGAD prototype now in flight test — to follow the 5th-gen F-35, while the SHiELD pod will go on non-stealthy 4th gen aircraft like the F-16, as in this Lockheed video.
But the company’s new beam-director design is actually getting its first workout on an Army system, the truck-mounted IFPC Energy Laser, which will defend against artillery rockets, drones, and, potentially, subsonic cruise missiles.