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Lockheed Martin aiming to scale laser weapon to 500kW

02 Aug 2023

Under second phase of HELSI program; powering up from previous 300kW capability.

Military and aerospace systems developer Lockheed Martin says it will “scale its laser technology to a new benchmark” with the planned launch of a 500 kW-class laser, the most powerful laser Lockheed Martin has produced.

This eclipses its previous 300 kW-class laser power level developed under a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, OUSD (R&E), which was launched in September, 2022.

The new 500 kW-class laser, developed under a new contract just awarded by OUSD (R&E), is the second phase of the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI). This phase of HELSI aims to increase the laser’s power level while achieving excellent beam quality and optimizing efficiency, size, weight, and volume for the continuous-wave high energy laser sources.

Proving this capability will reduce risk for the Department of Defense acquisition and fielding of high-powered laser weapon systems for all six military branches.

Rick Cordaro, VP Mission Systems & Weapons, commented, “OUSD has invested to mature high energy lasers in support of America’s warfighters. At the same time, Lockheed Martin has invested in our production infrastructure in anticipation of the Department of Defense’s demand for laser weapons that have additional layers of protection with deep magazines, low cost per engagement, high speed of light delivery and high precision response reducing logistics requirements.

“The new 500-kW laser will incorporate our successes from the 300-kW system and lessons learned from legacy programs to further prove the capability to defend against a range of threats,” said Cordaro.

Development experience

An established weapon system integrator, Lockheed Martin has invested in demonstrating the maturity of its directed energy technology and increasing its production capacity to build laser weapon systems at scale. The company stated that the HELSI progress reflects the firm’s commitment to developing advanced technologies “offering speed and agility to Joint All-Domain Operations”.

The 500 kW-class laser will be tactically configured, utilize Lockheed Martin’s proven spectral beam combined architecture to support military platforms, and incorporate Department of Defense Modular Open System Approach standards to ensure the systems interoperability and multi-mission integration.

Lockheed Martin's 500 kW-class laser conceptual rendering for the OUSD’s High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI). The laser will be tactically configured and ready to support military platforms. Image courtesy Lockheed Martin. U.S. Army’s Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) demonstrator laser weapon system. Image courtesy Lockheed Martin.

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