ATHENA Advanced Test High Energy Asset ADAM Area Defense Anti-Munitions
Lockheed Martin reported March 3, 2015 that a 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a recent field test, demonstrating the rapidly evolving precision capability to protect military forces and critical infrastructure.
Known as ATHENA, for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, the ground-based prototype system burned through the engine manifold in a matter of seconds from more than a mile away. The truck was mounted on a test platform with its engine and drive train running to simulate an operationally-relevant test scenario.
“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”
The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems.
ATHENA is based on the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon system developed by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California, which has been proven in demonstrations against small airborne and sea-based targets. It incorporates the 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) fiber laser developed by the company in Bothell, Washington.
The Lockheed Martin prototype laser weapon system proved that an advanced system of sensors, software and specialized optics can deliver decisive lethality against unmanned aerial vehicle threats. In tests conducted with the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command in August 2017, the 30-kilowatt class ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) system brought down five 10.8' wingspan Outlaw unmanned aerial systems at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. ATHENA employed advanced beam control technology and an efficient fiber laser in this latest series of tests of the prototype system.
"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," said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin's Chief Technology Officer. "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."
Lockheed Martin partnered with Army Space and Missile Defense Command on a cooperative research and development agreement to test ATHENA. The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure. Lockheed Martin and the Army will conduct post mission reviews, and data collected will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems.
ATHENA is a transportable, ground-based system that serves as a low-cost test bed for demonstrating technologies required for military use of laser weapon systems. Lockheed Martin funded ATHENA's development with research and development investments. It uses the company's 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) that provides great efficiency and lethality in a design that scales to higher power levels. ATHENA is powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) demonstrated their laser weapon system for the U.S. Air Force at a government test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in October 2019, where the system successfully engaged and shot down multiple fixed wing and rotary drones. The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (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 had been a priority of the U.S. Air Force and other branches of the Department of Defense, 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 ATHENA system was developed by Lockheed Martin to integrate seamlessly and provide a cost-effective, complementary anti-drone capability with the network of systems the warfighter is already using. ATHENA was operated by USAF personnel during this demonstration, and it was able to destroy multiple drones in engagements representative of what is being encountered by U.S. armed forces today. The ATHENA high-energy laser system is transportable and therefore enables the Air Force to emplace it anywhere they need to defend bases and high-value assets.
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