US Army tests ATHENA laser weapon system for protection from airborne targets


The US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has tested its advanced test high energy asset (ATHENA) system, which has been designed to be used against airborne targets.

Equipped with sensors, software and specialised optics, the ATHENA system was tested as part of a cooperative research and development agreement signed between Lockheed Martin and Army SMDC.

During the latest series of tests, ATHENA used advanced beam control technology and a fibre laser to bring down five 10.8in wingspan Outlaw unmanned aerial systems.

Conducted at the army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the tests validated ATHENA’s ability to deliver decisive lethality against unmanned aerial vehicle threats.

Lockheed Martin chief technology officer Keoki Jackson said:  "The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we've seen against static targets at our own test range.

"As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we're making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range."

"The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we've seen against static targets at our own test range."

The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure, Lockheed stated.

In addition, Lockheed Martin and the US army will conduct post-mission reviews.

Data collected from reviews and testing will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems, according to the statement.

The ATHENA ground-based system is claimed to use the Lockheed’s 30kW Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) and is powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.


Image: In a live-fire demonstration, a 30kW class laser weapon system brought down five unmanned aerial vehicles with a 100% success rate. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.