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).
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.