This summer, the US Air Force will begin testing a laser mounted on an F-15 warplane, an official said Monday. The Pentagon last year awarded a $26 million contract to Lockheed Martin for a laser program called SHiELD (Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator.) The idea is to put a laser system on aircraft with an output of about 50 kilowatts to test their ability to zap drones or cruise missiles. Air Force scientists hope to have a laser that can defeat drones and missiles ready to put on an F-15 by summer 2019. 'We have got tests starting this summer and the flight tests next summer,' Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, told reporters.
From the start, the challenge in weaponizing light was jacking up the laser's horsepower to levels that could melt metal at a meaningful distance--going from, say, the 1,000 watts you'd find in an industrial cutting tool to between 30 kilowatts and 100 kilowatts or more for a weapons-grade model. Chemical lasers could achieve such performance, but they required unwieldy mixtures to generate the beam. While electrically powered solid-state lasers didn't have that drawback, they also didn't have the power--initially. Afzal found inspiration in the telecommunications industry.
It may be a common sight in the world of Star Wars, but so far laser weapons have struggled to make it onto a real battlefield. However, that could soon change as Department of Defense bosses have revealed a new $3.2m project with Clemson University engineers to investigate the science behind laser weapons. The military has already deployed some lasers as defensive weapons to shoot down incoming missiles and drones, but the two new projects will address underlying issues with making them more widespread. The two new projects are based on helping develop the fundamental technology that could see laser weapons such as those seen here in Star Wars: The Force Awakens become a reality. John Ballato and Lin Zhu are taking two different but complementary approaches to creating a high-energy laser that could be used as a weapon.
Lockheed Martin has completed the design, development and demonstration of a radical 60 kW laser weapon for the U.S. Army. In testing earlier this month, the Lockheed Martin laser produced a single beam of 58 kW, representing a world record for a laser of this type. Army bosses hope the radical weapon will give protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars, and says It could one day be installed on military planes, helicopters and ships. A rendering of a truck mounted 60 kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles. Lockheed Martin has revealed it has completed the design, development and demonstration of a radical 60 kW laser weapon for the U.S. Army.