Lockheed Aculight eyes high-power laser to defend tactical aircraft

Laser weapons experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. are helping the U.S. Air Force develop a compact, ruggedized, high-power laser to defend tactical aircraft flying at or above the speed of sound from enemy aircraft and missiles.

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KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Laser weapons experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. are helping the U.S. Air Force develop a compact, ruggedized, high-power laser to defend tactical aircraft flying at or above the speed of sound from enemy aircraft and missiles.

Officials of the Laser Division of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., announced a $26.3 million contract to Lockheed Martin Aculight in Bothell, Wash., for the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) project. LANCE seeks to explore ways of reducing risk for laser weapons on aircraft. Lockheed Martin Aculight experts will help advance the state of the art in laser technologies, demonstrate performance, and assess the operational utility of a laser weapon small enough to fit on tactical aircraft like jet fighters.

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Lockheed Martin Aculight is developing a prototype laser for potential use aboard tactical aircraft to defend against enemy planes, missiles, and other airborne threats.

The LANCE project is part of the Air Force's Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop and assess a high-energy laser for use against enemy aircraft, missiles, and other airborne threats. On the SHiELD program, Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, Calif., is developing beam-control technology to protect current and future fighter aircraft with directed-energy systems. Northrop Grumman is using a laser housed in a pod attached to a fighter-sized aircraft.

Air Force researchers are asking Aculight to demonstrate a ruggedized, high-power laser subsystem for flight testing on the Northrop Grumman aircraft-attached SHiELD pod. This laser must minimize beam quality degradation under the stressing flight conditions of high-performance tactical aircraft.

Aculight experts will quantify the performance of this airborne defensive laser system for laser output power, electrical-to-optical efficiency, power stability, beam jitter, and power in the bucket. The laser must be able to withstand the G loads and vibration of tactical aircraft maneuvers, and must be ready for flight demonstrations by 2021.

On this contract, Lockheed Martin Aculight will do the work in Bothell, Wash., and should be finished by September 2022.

For more information visit Lockheed Martin online at www.lockheedmartin.com.

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