Military

Lockheed Martin to hand record 60-kW laser weapon over to the US Army

Lockheed Martin to hand record...
Rendering of a truck-mounted 60-kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles
Rendering of a truck-mounted 60-kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles
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Rendering of a truck-mounted 60-kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles
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Rendering of a truck-mounted 60-kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles

In 2015, Lockheed Martin took the wraps off a 30-kW mobile laser weapon that was powerful enough to take out a truck. Now the company will deliver a new 60-kW weapon to the US Army that earlier this month set a new record by generating a single 58-kW beam. With all phases from demonstration to development completed, Lockheed will ship the combined fiber laser to the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Alabama.

Similar to the previous laser, the new 60-kW design uses spectrum beam combining technology to produce a weapon-grade laser that is destructive as well as portable and accurate. The fiber laser modules are made of an active gain medium consisting of an optical fiber doped with a rare-earth element, including erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, or others.

The optical fibers are flexible, so the laser can be thousands of meters long for greater gain, while taking up very little space because it can be coiled like a rope. The large surface-to-volume ratio means that it's easy to cool. In addition, fiber lasers are very durable and project a high-quality beam using 50 percent less electricity than an equivalent solid-state laser.

Lockheed says that the individual lasers produced by the fibers are combined into a single beam that is intense and scalable through the addition of more fiber bundles. The present laser is close to the diffraction limit. That is, it's close to the physical limit for focusing a laser on a single spot without interfering with itself, but it's still highly efficient – translating over 43 percent of the electricity fed into it into laser light.

"The inherent scalability of this beam combined laser system has allowed us to build the first 60 kW-class fiber laser for the U.S. Army," says Robert Afzal, senior fellow for Laser and Sensor Systems. "We have shown that a powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air."

Lockheed sees the new lasers as eventually leading to new systems to provide protection against swarms of drones, rockets, and mortars that would overwhelm conventional defenses.

Source: Lockheed Martin

8 comments
Ent
Would this also work as an anti-tank weapon? Apart from knocking out the camera systems, maybe some laser light could leak into the compartment and disorient the crew?
swaan
@Ent 60kW and disorient the crew? I'll go out on a limb here and say 60kW sounds pretty lethal to me!
rutnerh
Is the beam really red and visible? If visible the source could easily be wiped out by an enemy. Also it looks more than defensive especially if the range is miles. Also how many seconds does it take to destroy a drone or larger air plane?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Its strongest point is speed of light.
Expanded Viewpoint
Well Rutnerh, I'm not a physicist or laser engineer, but I would say that the beam is most likely in the infra red portion of the spectrum. But even if it was invisible to the naked eye like one from a CO2 laser, you'd probably be able to see it with a heat sensing device of some kind as it would be warming up particles of dust and water suspended in the air. @Ent, Blindness would certainly be considered to be a cause of disorientation!
MBadgero
"The fiber laser modules are made of an active gain medium consisting of an optical fiber doped with a rare-earth element, including erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, or others. "
"But when will you be home?"
"That's classified."
niio
It's not the point of the article but HEMTT has eight wheels, not six; two axles in front and two in back.
CharlieSeattle
What is the power source? How fast does it recharge? How many shots can it fire? What is the effective range in smoke, fog, drizzle, rain, sleet, snow?