U.S. Air Force Received First Airborne Laser Weapons

The US Air Force has taken delivery of the first LANCE (Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments) directed energy weapon system from Lockheed Martin.

According to a report from Breaking Defense, the company revealed it delivered the system to the Air Force Research Lab in February.

LANCE is part of the US Air Force’s efforts to equip fighter jets with compact laser weapons capable of taking down anti-aircraft missiles.

The US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $26.3 million contract for the design, development and production of a high power fiber laser in 2017.

That contract was part of AFRL’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program, which is divided into three efforts. The first includes the development of a beam control system to direct the laser onto the target dubbed SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE). The second encompasses the development of a pod mounted on the tactical fighter jet, which will power and cool the laser, while the third is the actual LANCE weapon.

The cueing system is to be delivered by Northrop Grumman, while Boeing has already delivered the pod for LANCE.

Announcing the delivery of the directed energy weapon, Lockheed Martin’s director of Advanced Product Solutions strategy and business development, Tyler Griffin, told reporters this was “the smallest lightest, high-energy laser of its power class that the company has built to date.”

“It is a critical benchmark in developing operational laser weapon systems in the airborne domain,” Griffin added.

While the Air Force is now in possession of the laser weapon, it is yet unclear on which fighter the novel system will be integrated or when flight testing might start.

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