Air Force Taps Lockheed To Develop Laser Demonstrator For Fighter Jet

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] a $26.3 million contract to design and build a high-power laser demonstrator that could be tested on a fighter jet by 2021, the company announced Nov. 6.

AFRL received six bids to provide the fiber laser, named the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE).

Lockheed Martin is helping the Air Force Research Lab develop and mature high energy laser weapon systems, including the high energy laser pictured in this rendering. Credit: Air Force Research Lab (PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin is helping the Air Force Research Lab develop and mature high energy laser weapon systems, including the high energy laser pictured in this rendering. Credit: Air Force Research Lab (PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

LANCE is one of three subsystems AFRL is pursuing as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program. SHiELD is designed to defend against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons.

The other subsystems are the SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE), a beam control system that will direct the laser onto a target, and the Laser Pod Research & Development (LPRD), a pod mounted on the fighter to power and cool the laser.

Last year, Northrop Grumman [NOC] was awarded a five-year, $39 million contract to develop the beam control system, and Boeing [BA] received a five-year, $90 million contract to develop the laser pod.

Lockheed Martin, which delivered a truck-mounted, 60-kW laser to the U.S. Army earlier this year, faces “a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform,” said Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at the company.

Lockheed Martin’s announcement came about a month after the company received a $9.4 million, nine-month contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency Oct. 5 to develop a concept for an anti-missile laser on a high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle. General Atomics  Electromagnetic Systems received a similar, $8.9 million contract Nov. 1.





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