Late last week, Lockheed Martin announced that it has verified the performance of its laser weapon during almost 60 flight tests over the course of this year and last. The company used an unspecified business jet as its inexpensive testing platform, it said, using it to shoot laser beams from a turret while measuring its performance across all directions. In case you missed it, Lockheed’s laser is no joke.
This laser weapon is currently in the prototype stage, and was developed for DARPA, the military’s mad science research branch. The laser was also developed for the Air Force Research Laboratory. While entirely futuristic, the idea of shooting lasers as weapons is nothing new, as countless science fiction stories reveal. The technology has some big barriers to overcome, though, which is exactly what Lockheed’s doing.
Namely, Lockheed says that for the military to use a laser weapon, that laser will need to be able to shoot in any direction, not just straight ahead. The laws of physics are a pesky issue, though, as according to Lockheed, “a laser only can engage targets in front of an aircraft that is traveling close to the speed of sound.” There’s one exception to that, however: if they can counteract atmospheric turbulence, they can bend the rules, so to speak.
Lockheed managed to do that, it says, with its Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control, ABC for short. This turret is the only of its kind, able to operate in a 360-degree field against any aircraft that is traveling close to the speed of sound. The laser was tested from a jet traveling at typical jet cruising speeds. The defiance of turbulence is, in part, achieved with the use of mirrors.
SOURCE: Lockheed Martin