Northrop Grumman has announced it will help the US Air Force to develop a new defensive weapon to be installed in existing and future aircraft. The contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will see the company develop and build a beam control system for a laser weapon demonstration system that AFRL is developing under its Advanced Technology Demonstration program.

The system will be housed in a pod similar to one being developed by Lockheed Martin and be small enough to be install on a fighter aircraft. As a defensive weapon, its likely targets will be hostile incoming missiles, drones, and warplanes.

The company's part of the project will be to develop the beam control system, which is an active focusing device that not only acquires and tracks targets, but monitors the air conditions along the path of the laser beam and alters the focus to counteract any disturbances, so it strikes the target for maximum effect.

When developed, the system will be integrated with the laser, power source, and cooling systems of the weapon and the completed weapon will be tested in 2019 using a supersonic tactical weapon as an aerial test platform.