Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Lockheed Martin to boost power level of its highest powered laser to 500 kW

Lockheed Martin announced that it is scaling up its 300 kW-class laser power level to 500 kW under a new contract from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, OUSD (R&E).

The laser technology has made remarkable progress in the recent past. One of the rapidly progressing fields in the defense sector is the use of lasers for airborne military applications. The transmission at the speed of light allows laser-based weapons to engage distant targets immediately after detection. The initial installation costs are high, but laser weapons provide cost-effective engagements after deployment.

However, bringing practical laser weapons to the battlefield has taken a long time. This is mainly because such systems need to be made light, compact, robust, and powerful enough to burn through the target in the desired time frame.

The 500 kW-class laser, the most powerful laser Lockheed Martin has produced, is the second phase of the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI). This phase aims to increase the laser’s power level while achieving excellent beam quality and optimizing efficiency, size, weight, and volume for the continuous-wave high-energy laser sources.

The 500 kW-class lasers will be tactically configured and utilize the company’s proven spectral beam combined architecture to support military platforms. Also, it will incorporate Department of Defense Modular Open System Approach standards to ensure the system’s interoperability and multi-mission integration.

The company says proving this capability will reduce the risk for the Department of Defense acquisition fielding of high-powered laser weapon systems for all six military branches.

“OUSD (R&E) has invested to mature high energy lasers in support of America’s warfighters. At the same time, Lockheed Martin has invested in our production infrastructure in anticipation of the Department of Defense’s demand for laser weapons that have additional layers of protection with deep magazines, low cost per engagement, high speed of light delivery, and high precision response reducing logistics requirements,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president of Mission Systems & Weapons at Lockheed Martin, in a press release. “The 500-kW laser will incorporate our successes from the 300-kW system and lessons learned from legacy programs to further prove the capability to defend against a range of threats.”

The company has invested in the maturity of its directed energy technology and increasing its production capacity to build laser weapon systems at scale. Earlier in July, Lockheed received another transaction authority deal worth up to $220.8 million to develop, integrate, manufacture, test, and deliver an Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) prototype weapon system.

This OUSD (R&E) HELSI milestone exemplifies Lockheed Martin’s commitment to developing advanced technologies that provide speed and agility to Joint All-Domain Operations.