Laser blasters and other energy-based weaponry are commonly found in science fiction works like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”. But it looks like engineers want to make it a reality for fighter jets.
Engineers at Lockheed Martin received a $26 million contract to develop a laser-based weapon that could be loaded onto a small fighter plane like the F-22 Raptor, reports Wired.
Lockheed would be adapting the land-based laser technology which they developed for the Army for shooting down missiles.
The project will fall under the United States Air Force Research Lab’s Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstration program, or “Shield.” The program aims to load a test system on a fighter jet by 2021.
Engineers plan to use fiber optics in building a compact and lightweight weapon system that could fit in a pod, the report stated. That would make it easier to mount on fighter jets and be sent out to shoot down missiles.
Fiber optics allow the laser to become scalable by combining multiple individual lasers into a more powerful beam. This beam could then be directed to heat up an incoming missile’s tank or its navigation parts, and cause it to deviate from the target.
While Lockheed has a general idea of how to proceed, it recognized the difficulties of mounting a laser on a rapidly moving vehicle.
Rob Afzal, one of Lockheed’s experts in laser-based weapon systems said in the report, “We’re putting a weapon traveling at the speed of light onto an aircraft capable of traveling the speed of sound, while targeting threats likely also traveling at supersonic speeds. Ruggedization is critical.”