The military industrial research and production company Lockheed Martin, one of the largest in the world, has released footage of its newest 30-kilowatt powerful laser system called ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset). The video shows the ATHENA laser shooting down an unmanned areal vehicle by literally cutting its tail fin off.
The precision of the device and its aiming systems seem impressive, and the power is certainly enough to pose a threat to any enemy drones it might encounter. The video was shot in New Mexico last month, where ATHENA took out five drones like they were made of paper. The target practice seems successful enough, which means that the strategic and tactical landscape of modern warfare might soon evolve to include laser weaponry.
It’s worth noting that laser weapons are banned for the purpose of being used on human targets thanks to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons from 1995. But this laser is intended for UAV’s only and is the second serious attempt at a vehicle and/or missile targeting laser-based system. It’s predecessor is mounted on a ship and can be used for the same purpose with extreme accuracy.
Lockheed has been saying its laser is ready for deployment since early last year, but so far it hasn’t been strapped to any actual military equipment. Maybe this demo will change that.
It easily brought down five 10.8′ wingspan Outlaw unmanned aerial systems at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. ATHENA employed advanced beam control technology and an efficient fiber laser in this latest series of tests of the prototype system.
The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure. Lockheed Martin and the Army will conduct post mission reviews, and data collected will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems.
The system is a transportable, ground-based device that serves as a low-cost test bed for demonstrating technologies required for military use of laser weapon systems. Lockheed Martin funded ATHENA’s development with research and development investments.
It uses the company’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) that provides great efficiency and lethality in a design that scales to higher power levels. ATHENA is powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.