Lockheed Martin [LMT] and the Air Force have successfully tested a company-developed transportable high-speed laser weapon capable of countering unmanned aerial systems.
Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) was recently demonstrated by service personnel at a government test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the company said Nov. 7. It operated in a netted environment with a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor, and successfully shot down multiple fixed-wing and rotary unmanned aerial vehicles.
Airmen operated ATHENA based on cues from the C2 system, Lockheed Martin said. The system’s beam director then “slewed, acquired, tracked and defeated the drone with a high-energy laser.”
The test demonstrated a key requirement for laser systems to effectively counter UAVs on the battlefield, the company noted.
“We’ve watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it’s an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin’s critical technology,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of missile defense programs for Lockheed Martin. “ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter.”
The company developed ATHENA using independent research and development (IRAD) funds, seeking to build a low-cost, transportable counter-UAS capability that could be partnered with U.S. military systems. The Air Force selected the system to participate in the test event.
“The Air Force and other DoD branches have strong interest in systems with ATHENA’s demonstrated success,” said Neil Etling, ATHENA senior program manager, in a Thursday email to Defense Daily.
The system uses Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) spectral beam combining fiber laser, which employs multiple fiber laser modules to form a single high-quality beam. It is an upgrade from the company’s self-funded Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) system, which used a commercially available 10-kilowatt laser.