The point? To demonstrate how a laser weapon system could take a target out of action. I’m convinced.
Defense company Lockheed Martin developed the prototype laser, which they call ATHENA, or Advanced Test High Energy Asset. In this test, the laser was in a ground-based system and the car was stationed on a platform with the engine running to imitate a real vehicle threat. Lockheed Martin claims it’s the first field test of “an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype.”
According to the company, the laser system “successfully disabled the engine of a small truck.” Judging by the picture, that’s a pretty understated description.
The system combines multiple fibre lasers into one beam to hit 30 kilowatts. To put that in perspective, the laser in an everyday pointer might be about one milliwatt, or 30 million times less. Lockheed Martin says that its laser creates a “near-perfect quality beam of light” while using less energy than solid-state alternatives.
A boat on fire from a previous laser weapon test. Image: Lockheed Martin
It’s previously tested a similar laser system on targets at sea and in the air, also from a distance of around a mile, though that was only using a 10 kilowatt laser. The essential gist is the same, though: burn through the vehicle until it stalls.
Ultimately, the laser weapons are intended for military operations, where they’d be installed on planes, helicopters, ships or trucks. The US Navy already has another 30-kilowatt laser, the Laser Weapon System or LaWS, installed on the USS Ponce.
Laser weapons might finally be here.
Correction: This post originally said that 1 milliwatt is 3 million times weaker than 30 kilowatts, when it actually is 30 million times weaker. We regret our maths.