New footage has been released by Lockheed Martin showing its laser weapon system, known as “Athena,” shooting down drone targets in flight. The video was captured during tests conducted last month, featuring the prototype weapon as it took out five unmanned Outlaw aircraft, causing structural damage and leading to the drones losing control.
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As reported by the Daily Mail, the tests took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and were a joint effort between Lockheed Martin and the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (Athena) system was pitted against five Outlaw unmanned drones, which each have a wingspan of 10.8 feet.
The tests used the advanced beam control technology and fiber laser associated with Athena weapon, which is a ground-based system that can be mounted on various ground vehicles, including tanks. In the future, plane, helicopter, or ship mounting options may be available.
Video showed the tail end of the drones bursting into flames after being shot by the Athena weapons system, causing them to lose control and plummet to the ground.
“The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we’ve seen against static targets at our own test range,” said Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson.
“As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a lower range.”
According to Lockheed Martin, the Athena system currently uses the company’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative, also known as ALADIN, to increase efficiency and lethality. It also allows the weapon to be scaled up, helping it reach higher power levels.
This past March, the company completed the design and development phases of a radical 60 kW laser, allowing it to be demonstrated to the US Army. During tests, the weapon created a single beam of 58 kW, achieving a world record for lasers of that type.
US Army officials hope the radical laser will provide protective capabilities against various threats including drone swarms or a large number of mortars or rockets.