Lockheed Martin has donated the first laser for field testing to the Air Force. The company has been dealing with the topic of laser weapons for a long time - in the 70s of the last century. The company introduced the first prototype of a fairly compact ADAM (Area Defense Anti-Munitions) ground system with a capacity of 30 kilowatts in 2012. Back then, the US Army conducted extensive tests of the system, firing at small drones and missiles. Targets could be damaged at a distance of up to two kilometers. Two years later, the laser was used against motor boats of a mock enemy. They also caused damage incompatible with the continuation of the mission.
In 2017, Lockheed Martin tested a new 60 kW combat laser. The technology applied by the company has reduced energy consumption by an average of 50% compared to solid-state lasers. The US Army recognized the tests as successful and signed the acceptance documents.
In the same year, the US Air Force Research Laboratory awarded Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman under the SHiELD (Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator) program worth just over $26 million. Boeing took care of the capsule and linking the system to the aircraft, Northrop Grumman - the beam control system that directs the laser to the target and keeps it there until it is destroyed. Last year, the beam control subsystem was handed over to the customer.
And Lockheed Martin has been downsizing its land-based laser system and solving the problem of its cooling on aircraft. Five years later, the installation was reduced by one-sixth of the army. Fitted in a capsule.
The decrease, it would seem, is insignificant, but the problems, according to a senior researcher at Lockheed Martin, Dr. Rob Afzal, had to be solved a lot. In any case, the company had to shift the previously approved deadlines by two years. But now, as he said, the prospect of reducing the weight of aircraft laser installations to 5-10 kilograms per kilowatt of power has opened up.
Whether it was possible to maintain the power of the army laser is not reported. After all, it was not only about the miniaturization of the installation, but also about reducing the energy consumption of LANCE. It will not be possible to attach a generator to a fighter, which is used by the ground forces. It is only known that during ground tests in New Mexico, the LANCE prototype shot down several air-to-ground missiles. So, this problem has been solved.
It has not yet been decided which aircraft it is planned to hang LANCE on. The company conducted its research on a cargo S-130. On advertising pictures, the capsule was attached to the F-16 fighter. Boeing in 2019 tested its capsule without a laser on the F-15 fighter.
Meanwhile, US Air Force pilots are already performing simulation flights with airborne laser weapons. Their flight simulators were loaded with a computer program that provides the ability to use laser weapons to repel attacks in air combat. Pilots get great pleasure from this game.