Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is aiming to increase the already staggering power of their most powerful combat laser ever to a cruise-missile-destroying 500 kilowatts (kW) of pure energy.
Currently, the most powerful laser ever delivered to the Department of Defense packs a blistering 300 kW of energy. Now, the latest power increase is yet another step forward for the accelerating development and deployment of cutting-edge directed energy weapons.
Combat Laser Weapons Increasingly Entering the Field of Battle
In the days of President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative, the U.S. military began testing a chemical laser that they hoped would one day be able to knock Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) from the sky. Unfortunately, the designers soon discovered that the technology wasn’t nearly ready, as even the weakest of combat laser designs took up entire buildings to operate.
In the last decade, dramatic improvements in optical technology and laser systems have led to a handful of practical combat lasers. The most powerful is in the hands of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Dubbed Iron Beam, that system has grown from tens of kilowatts of power in 2016 to a robust 100 kW in 2023.
Still, weapons like Iron Beam or smaller combat laser systems in testing and development by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army don’t come close to being able to counter many airborne threats, least of all ICBMs. Instead, they are most useful against drones or mortars, whereas missile attacks are still countered by anti-missile missiles.
That may soon change, as Lockheed’s 300 kW laser was shown downing a simulated cruise missile just last year. And based on their goals of upping that figure to 500 kW, their DOD customers may finally be getting closer to the holy grail of combat laser systems.
500 kW HELSI Will Be the Most Powerful Combat Laser Ever…
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