The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser weapon system successfully engaged and shot down multiple fixed wing and rotary drones in a US Air Force test at a government range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
According to system developer Lockheed Martin, ATHENA operated in a fully-netted engagement environment with a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor.
The radar track was provided to airmen who operated ATHENA via cues from the C2, then ATHENA’s beam director slewed, acquired, tracked and defeated the drone with a high-energy laser.
Validating this type of full kill-chain performance has been a priority of the US Air Force and other branches of the defense department, and it remains a requirement for laser weapons to be effective against unmanned aerial systems (UAS) on the battlefield.
“We’ve watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it’s an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin’s critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of missile defense programs for Lockheed Martin.
The high-energy laser system is transportable, meaning the air force could emplace it anywhere they need to defend bases and high-value assets.
The Air Force is evaluating technologies for potential fielding and has received Raytheon’s high-energy laser counter-unmanned aerial system in October this year. The system will be deployed overseas as part of a year-long Air Force experiment to train operators and test the system’s effectiveness in real-world conditions.