Lockheed Martin’s race to harness the power of lasers just paid off.
American aerospace, advanced technology, and arms dealer Lockheed Martin announced the newest addition to its arsenal — but this time, it was something a little more different than a traditional missile, instead it was the speed-of-light protection of lasers. Lockheed explicitly stated that it has the capabilities to destroy small rockets, artillery shells and motors, small unmanned aerial vehicles, small attack boats and lightweight ground vehicles that are within a mile — all of that is just on their 10-kilowatt laser by the way.
We may assume Lockheed has been accelerating their laser programs ever since its ATHENA’s program announcement in 2017. The newest statement could almost be seen as a spiritual successor of the Athena program since it shares many of the same design philosophies, there has not been an official comment from Lockheed on that matter — it is more than likely classified anyhow.
Lockheed’s direct focus for the new HELIOS system is full integration into the carrier. What benefits come from full integration? Integrity. By making sure the most vital parts of the system are hidden, it will prevent catastrophic failures if the ship were to suffer an attack. In some regards, it should also make the system cheaper to maintain since the most expensive items are in the internals of the system.
How does it work?
Lasers are an extremely concentrated beam of radiation that can be felt relatively the same at the end as the origin. Noticed how I said radiation? Usually, when we hear lasers we think of a beam of visible light that we use with our friends, and that is a correct assumption, but see it might be slightly too narrow to describe the phenomenon. “Laser” is an acronym of “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” The full name explains that any energy on the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible may be used to produce a laser-beam.
A document from US Navy Laser Safety Expert, Robert Aldrich outlined that The primary wavelengths of laser radiation for current military and commercial applications include the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the spectrum. While Lockheed has not given us specifics on their system, it is safe to assume they are using a mixture of all of them. This is because each of the bands has its distinct characteristics and penetration capabilities.
Using information from Aldrich’s document and looking at Lockheed’s animations in the video linked above, we should be able to estimate their mixture of taking down projectiles. Of course, Lockheed will be using different combinations for each circumstance, so these are not exact.
- Heating up projectiles to make them explode mid-air.
- For manned aircraft, use a mixture of heat to destroy the aircraft and ultraviolet waves that can affect the pilot’s tissues.
These are both super effective and will be able to be utilized instantaneously when the threat arrives.
And that’s not even the coolest part.
Director of energy systems at Lockheed Martin stated “[Lockheed Martin’s] beam control technology enables precision equivalent to shooting a beach ball off the top of the Empire State Building from the San Francisco Bay Bridge.” Having precision to that level is impressive, to say the least. While those numbers were for two stationary objects, if they were able to calculate the probability of them hitting that as statistically favorable for them, I would not doubt their ability to hit a fast-moving object in a specified area point-blank.
Notably, Lockheed’s laser system is more of a defensive weapon — protecting the vessels while their deadlier weapons can finish the job. Undoubtedly, this is some unique technology that has practical application in modern-day defense. It should not be surprising if the trend of more electrical-based weapons continues in the upcoming years.
Lockheed Martin is determined to have this in naval vessels by the end of 2021. Being able to see such powerful lasers in action will be exciting and a show of power for America. The future of electricity based weapons is looking bright, especially if this has flawless execution and significantly increases the defense of American crafts.
Even if warfare technology does not interest you, the advancements in technology should. These are some of the best engineers on earth, working on some of the hardest problems to solve. The improvements from this technology are determined to be used in other places. Buckle up ladies and gentlemen — it’s going to be a wild decade.