In a project intended to realize the ‘Star Wars’ dream of fighter jets spewing laser beams at enemy jets, the US Air Force Research Lab has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to design, develop and produce a high-power fiber laser to be fired from tactical fighter jets.
The $26.3 million dollar contract calls for the laser to be mounted on a tactical fighter jet by 2021 and is part of the US Air Force's Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program, a Lockheed Martin statement said.
Dr. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin said. "We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system."
"Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a U.S. Army ground vehicle. It's a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform," said Afzal.
The SHiELD program is comprised of three subsystems; the beam control system, which directs the laser onto the target, is being designed by Northrop Grumman; a pod mounted on a tactical jet to power and cool the laser, which is being designed by Boeing; and the high energy laser itself, which is being developed by Lockheed.
The laser, which must be compact and highly efficient, also must work within "challenging" size, weight and power limits, is expected to be tested on a fighter aircraft by 2021, the Lockheed statement said.