The US Military has been dreaming of acquiring an efficient, and portable, laser weapon for some time.
Now, with a recent report from Lockheed Martin, the Military is one step closer towards that dream.
The recent press release from Lockheed Martin states:
Lockheed Martin has demonstrated a 30-kilowatt electric fibre laser, the highest power ever documented while retaining beam quality and electrical efficiency.
The internally funded research and development program culminated in this demonstration, which was achieved by combining many fibre lasers into a single, near-perfect quality beam of light — all while using approximately 50 per cent less electricity than alternative solid-state laser technologies.
Essentially, Lockheed Martin’s new laser weapons are quickly approaching the needed efficiency and power to be considered for active military use.
A major failing in fibre laser weapons until now, the press release notes, has been their relative weakness and lack of range. Now, through a process called Spectral Beam Combining, Lockheed Martin combines multiple fibre lasers through a combiner into a single powerful beam. This allows the fibre laser to emit one powerful, focused, and long range beam.
Lockheed Martin is not alone in this technology arms race, though.
Prachi Patel, writing for IEEE Spectrum, notes:
MBDA Systems, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman have all reported their own high-power fibre laser weapon feats in the past couple years. In October 2012, MBDA Systems’ German subsidiary used its 40kW system to shoot down airborne artillery from a distance of 2 km. The 40kW system was built with four 10kW sources provided by industrial fibre laser maker IPG Photonics. Northrop Grumman is also busy developing high-power fibre lasers through various military contracts, including the Army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative.
The Military is particularly interested in using laser weapons as defensive measures against enemy missiles and drones. In testing, lasers have been proven to be significantly more effective and accurate than missiles in this regard. Unlike missiles, which can be extremely expensive, lasers provide a relatively cheap way to provide aerial defence.
Currently, the US Navy has equipped the USS Ponce, a tactical ‘mothership’ located in the Persian Gulf, with an experimental laser defence system for possible protection against any aggression by Iran.
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