The Air Force blasted missiles out of the sky with a laser that could one day arm fighter jets

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander CookUS Air Force Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, an F-35 pilot, the Melbourne Air and Space Show in Florida, March 30, 2019.
  • The US Air Force has tested a laser weapon that could eventually arm future fighters, among other aircraft, the service announced Friday.
  • During the April 23 test, a laser weapon developed as part of the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program shot down multiple air-launched missiles.
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The US Air Force successfully shot down multiple missiles with a laser weapon that could eventually defend fighters and other aircraft against existing and emerging missile threats.

The Air Force’s Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program is developing a new directed-energy weapon on a pod that could be used to protect US aircraft from surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles.

The program recently achieved an important milestone when a ground-based unit eliminated multiple air-launched missiles during testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the Air Force announced Friday.

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS), acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.Air Force Research LaboratoryLow-resolution photo of the laser weapon tested recently.

The Demonstrator Laser Weapon System tested recently appears to be a proof-of-concept testing asset.

The final SHiELD weapon will be smaller, lighter, and more suited to use in a harsher airborne environment, according to the Air Force, and the recent test was a step in the right direction.

“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” Air Force Research Laboratory commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley said in a statement. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed of light technology will enable air operation in denied environments.”

Dr. Kelly Hammett, the director of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, said that this capability has the potentially to be a “game changer for our warfighters.”

A Lockheed Martin test pilot recently told an audience that America’s sixth-generation fighter could be armed with directed-energy weapons, according to USNI News. Lockheed is one of three defence contractors involved in the SHiELD program, according to Air Force Magazine.

The Air Force has previously suggested that this system could be used to protect not only advanced fighters but also bombers, tankers, and transport aircraft in high-risk environments, such as the difficult-to-penetrate anti-access zones that US great-power rivals are creating.

Unlike traditional countermeasures, this defensive could offer endless protection against a variety of threats, making it a potentially revolutionary concept. The Air Force is probably still a few years out from demonstrating a working prototype of the final SHiELD laser, The Drive reports.

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