Tactical Airborne Laser Pods are Coming

Tactical Airborne Laser Pods are Coming
September 15, 2020
Lockheed Martin is developing producible tactical airborne laser weapon solutions that complement kinetic defenses to protect warfighters in the air and on the ground.

Laser weapon systems (LWSs) are no longer on the horizon – they’re here. And Lockheed Martin is working to develop mature and producible tactical airborne LWS solutions that complement existing kinetic defenses to protect warfighters in the air, at sea and on the ground.

For more than 40 years, Lockheed Martin has specialized in laser weapon development and relevant technologies, ranging from lasers to beam control technology. The systems we’re developing under contract today can defeat small rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles, small attack boats, and lightweight ground vehicles.

  • Under the Department of Defense’s first laser weapon program of record, we’re integrating the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system onto U.S. Navy destroyers to protect sailors and ships from attack by drones and small boats.
  • For the U.S. Army, we’re developing the 300 kW-class Indirect Fire Precision Capabilities High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) demonstrator, a ground vehicle system to defeat drones, rockets, artillery and mortars. 
  • As a core member of the industry team developing the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) system for the U.S. Air Force, we’re developing critical components of an airborne laser pod including the high-energy laser and other subsystems that will be demonstrated ahead of a program of record in the mid-2020s.

And we’re just getting started.

Putting Light on Target
We’re partnering with industry and customer stakeholders to develop producible, low-cost tactical beam directors for use in land, sea and airborne applications. The beam director is the optical system that puts high-energy light on-target and keeps it there with high precision to defeat the threat.

And we’re leveraging decades of DoD investment in acquisition and tracking technologies to develop LWS-specific algorithms that enable the beam director to detect, identify, track and defeat threats.

Our beam director, consisting of a gimballed beam director assembly and an acquisition and tracking system, will first be demonstrated in a U.S. Army ground application.

The Path to Production
As laser weapon systems transition from the lab to the field, our customers are looking to industry to mature critical LWS technologies and prepare them for full-rate production. While we’re maturing technologies like the beam director, we’re also developing airborne laser pod solutions that support a rapid transition to production and deployment—and ultimately, a transition to embedded systems.

For example, some critical components, such as optics that can handle high-energy laser beams, have only been built in very small quantities for prototypes. We’re investing in capital expansions to produce components like these at full production rates and at lower cost.

Lockheed Martin is firing on all fronts to be ready to produce a tactical airborne laser pod when the Air Force calls.