The US Air Force has taken delivery of the first LANCE (Laser Advances for Compact Environments Next Generation) directed energy weapon system from Lockheed Martin. According to a report from Breaking Defense, the company revealed that it delivered the system to the Air Force Research Laboratory in February. LANCE is part of the US Air Force’s efforts to equip fighter jets with compact laser weapons capable of shooting down anti-aircraft missiles.
The US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $26.3 million contract for the design, development, and production of a high-power fiber laser in 2017. That contract was part of Lockheed Martin’s laser demonstration program. High Energy Self-Protection (SHiELD) AFRL, which is divided into three efforts. The first includes the development of a beam control system to direct the laser towards the target called SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE). The second covers the development of a pod mounted on the tactical fighter aircraft, which will power and cool the laser, while the third is the actual LANCE weapon. The signal system will be delivered by Northrop Grumman, while Boeing has already delivered the module for LANCE.
Announcing delivery of the directed energy weapon, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions director of strategy and business development Tyler Griffin told reporters this was “the smallest, lightest, highest-energy laser in its class.” of power that the company has built to date. “It is a critical benchmark in the development of operational laser weapon systems in the air domain,” Griffin added. While the Air Force is now in possession of the laser weapon, it is not yet clear which fighter the novel system will be integrated into or when flight tests might begin.