Lockheed Aculight developing prototype high-power laser weapons to help defend tactical aircraft

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.

Lockheed Aculight developing prototype high-power laser weapons to help defend tactical aircraft
Lockheed Aculight developing prototype high-power laser weapons to help defend tactical aircraft
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 Tuesday 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.

The LANCE project is part of the Air Force's Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) demonstration. The SHiELD demonstration will develop and assess a high energy laser (HEL) for use against enemy aircraft, missiles, and other airborne threats.

The Air Force is working with the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., on the SHiELD program. Northrop Grumman 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.

Related: Tactical airborne laser weapons: where are we now, and how far do we have to go to get there?

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

Aculight experts will quantify the performance 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 prevailed over five other bidding companies, Air Force officials say. Aculight will do the work in Bothell, Wash., and should be finished by September 2022.

For more information contact Lockheed Martin Aculight online at www.lockheedmartin.com, or the Air Force Air Force Research Lab Directed Energy Directorate at www.kirtland.af.mil/Units/AFRL-Directed-Energy-Directorate.

Ready to make a purchase? Search the Military & Aerospace Electronics Buyer's Guide for companies, new products, press releases, and videos

More in Unmanned