Lockheed Martin receives $26.3mn contract to develop airborne laser weaponry

By Pouyan Broukhim

The US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has awarded advanced security, aerospace and defense technology firm Lockheed Martin with a $26.3mn contract within its self-protect high energy laser demonstrator (SHiELD) program.

The contract will specifically see Lockheed Martin designing, developing and producing a high-powered fiber laser that will be used in fight jets, with the expectation that this to be launched in 2021.

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"Lockheed Martin continues to rapidly advance laser weapon systems and the technologies that make them possible," said Rob Afzal, Senior Fellow of Laser Weapon Systems at Lockheed Martin. "We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system."

AFRL’s SHiELD program includes turret research, laser pod research and development, and laser advancements research (LANCE), with the program specifically aimed at developing advanced laser weaponry systems.

“Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a U.S. Army ground vehicle. It's a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform. It's exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft,” said Afzal.

“The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles and ships.”

Lockheed Martin’s contract will see the firm specifically working on the LANCE part of the project, with AFRL putting faith in the technology multinational due to its 40 years of industry expertise.

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