As if our name didn’t already express this, we absolutely love HOT hardware. And mixing hot hardware with frickin’ lasers is almost too much to handle. So imagine our delight we came across this news from defense contractor Lockheed Martin, which is working on ground-based weapon that can disable enemy equipment and vehicles from long-range distances. How far you might ask? How does one-mile sound to you?
The Advanced Test High Energy Asset, better known as ATHENA, is currently in the prototype phase, but the 30-kilowatt laser weapon system demonstrated earlier this week that it is capable of disabling a vehicle from over a mile away. The vehicle in question, which appears to be a 1980s era Ford F-150, was angled on a platform in a stationary position with its engine running (we’re assuming that the truck was propped up to allow its rear wheels to turn freely prior to being zapped). ATHENA was able to burn through the truck’s engine manifold in a matter of seconds, disabling the engine.
ATHENA’s lethality comes from what Lockheed Martin calls “spectral beam combining,” which combines multiple fiber laser modules to produce a single, high-powered beam. The company brags that its solution is far superior to competing systems that use “multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers.”
“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies.”
And if this field test against a stationary target doesn’t impress you, Jackson goes on to add that “this test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”
ATHENA is an outgrowth of work that first started with Lockheed Martin’s Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon system. To see that system in action, check the video below in which the ground-based ADAM system disabled a “military-grade” small boat that was racing across the Pacific Ocean.