Lockheed Martin Develops 500 kW Laser Weapon at a Cost of $1 per Shot
Lockheed Martin has announced a groundbreaking achievement, developing a laser weapon prototype with a power output of 500 kW. The company shared this news on its official website.
Previously, Lockheed Martin's engineers managed to reach a power output of only 300 kW for their High-Energy Laser Systems (HELSI). Now, through the "High-Energy Laser Scaling Initiative," the company has successfully increased the power of its solid-state laser weapon to 500 kW, enabling it to effectively engage larger armored targets.
The laser is generated using optical fiber coils with added neodymium doping, integrated into a system that includes Target Illumination and Laser Source (TILL) for target acquisition and tracking, as well as Beacon Illumination and Laser Source (BILL) for measuring atmospheric distortions, which are later compensated for by adaptive optics. All these components are linked to a combat management system that monitors the area, tracks and assesses potential targets, and determines threat levels.
One remarkable feature of this weapon is its ability to increase power without sacrificing the capability to combine multiple beams across the entire spectrum used for generating the laser output. It is important to note that the output beam retains high quality, conforming to the standards of the modular approach of the U.S. Department of Defense's open systems, ensuring functional compatibility and integration.
"Lockheed Martin has invested in its own production infrastructure in anticipation of the Defense Department's demand for laser weapons with additional levels of protection, large magazine capacity, low cost per shot, and high engagement speed," said Rick Cordaro, Vice President of the Mission Systems & Weapons division at Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin's laser weapon appeals to the military for its speed and deployability. The laser beam travels at the speed of light (almost 300,000 km/s) and is impossible to deflect, unlike aircraft during missile attacks. It cannot be stopped by electronic countermeasures or tricked by thermal decoys. The cost per shot is essentially the energy cost for the generator, amounting to just $1 per attempt.