The U.S. Army’s laser weapon future has arrived – the service is trying to introduce lasers weapons where it makes sense to deploy them, for now. They are building these weapons to shoot down drones, rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds.
Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense company, has recently demonstrated the Advanced Test High Energy Asset, referred to as ATHENA. The laser weapon was successfully tested with the U.S. Air Force at a government test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where it shot down multiple small fixed-wing and rotary drones.
“We’ve watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it’s an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin’s critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key, and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of Missile Defense Programs for Lockheed Martin.
ATHENA weapon system is a spectral beam combined fiber laser, which means that it is possible to connect multiple low power lasers together to produce a single high power beam. Lockheed Martin hasn’t shared the specific energy levels of ATHENA in these tests. The system was operated in a fully-netted engagement environment with a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor.
The ATHENA was operated by an airman, who was provided with radar tracking of the drones via cues from the C2. It then allowed ATHENA’s beam director to slew, acquire, track, and defeat the drone using its high-energy laser.
Developed by Lockheed Martin, the ATHENA system provides a cost-effective, complementary anti-drone capability. It is also compact, portable, and robust enough to deploy anywhere they need to defend bases and high-value assets.
During the demonstration, the system was able to destroy multiple drones in engagements representative of what is being encountered by U.S. armed forces today.