Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset system, also known as ATHENA, is a prototype laser weapon system that is designed to defeat close-in, low-value threats such as improvised rockets, unmanned aerial systems, vehicles and small boats. ATHENA is a transportable, ground-based system that serves as a low-cost test bed for demonstrating technologies required for military use of laser weapon systems. A ruggedized variant of the system would be suitable for military operations.
Lessons learned from developing, upgrading and testing ATHENA have been applied to U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Missile Defense Agency laser programs.
It uses Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) spectral beam combining fiber laser, in which multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam, providing great efficiency and lethality in a design that scales to higher power levels.
ATHENA is an upgrade to the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) system, which used a commercially available 10-kilowatt laser. Lockheed Martin funded both systems’ development and testing with research and development investments.
HOW IT WORKS
- A sensor locates the target and queues an infrared tracking camera, which prepares to stabilize the laser beam on a small spot of the target.
- For unmanned aerial systems and small boat targets, an operator visually verifies that the target is hostile and selects the aim point with a fine infrared sensor. Against improvised rockets and mortars, ATHENA operates in an autonomous mode with no operator in the loop.
- Multiple fiber modules in the laser device generate a powerful single beam of light.
- The energy stream passes through the beam control system’s mirrors, lenses and windows, which concentrate it and point it at the target.
- The laser beam leaves the system and travels at light speed to the target, applying intense heat that dazzles, damages or destroys the threat.