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Lockheed Martin delivers airborne laser weapon to US Air Force.

Lockheed Martin delivers airborne laser weapon to US Air Force.

According to report The Air Force Research Lab received a small directed energy weapon from Lockheed Martin in February, marking a significant step in the quest to outfit a tactical fighter jet with a laser capable of shooting down anti-aircraft missiles. Tyler Griffin, a company executive, told reporters earlier this month in the lead-up to the Farnborough Air Show, “It is the smallest, lightest, high energy laser of its power class that Lockheed Martin has created to date.” It is a crucial test in the development of a functional airborne laser weapon system.

While the Pentagon has advanced a number of different directed energy weapons in recent years, the value of this one, dubbed LANCE, is its small size, weight, and power requirements. “It’s one-sixth the size of what we produced for the Army going back to 2017,” Griffin added, referring to the Robust Electric laser Initiative programme. “Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments” is the meaning of the abbreviation LANCE. In November 2017, Lockheed received the initial contract for LANCE as part of the Air Force’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (Shield) programme.

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Northrop Grumman has created a beam control system and a pod that are used in conjunction with LANCE to focus the laser on its intended target. The Air Force reported receiving that pod subsystem from Boeing in February 2021. It will be possible to use these subsystems and/or an integrated laser weapon system after conducting mission usefulness analysis and war gaming studies. The findings of these investigations will be used to choose specific objectives for further testing and demonstrations.

Griffin stated that after the laser has been delivered to the Air Force, the next stage will be to begin integrating the weapon with the thermal system that controls LANCE’s heating and cooling. Griffin deferred to the Air Force when asked about the timing of the weapon’s discharge. The service has not made any final decisions on “follow-on efforts,” according to Wood, the AFRL officer, who spoke to Breaking Defense.
In collaboration with our warfighter stakeholders, he stated, “a number of potential applications and platforms are being evaluated for prospective demonstrations and tests.” At this time, no choice has been made on a particular application or platform for these follow-on activities, no flight demonstration is funded, and there is no straight transition plan into a programme of record.

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