The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is set to receive the ‘first major assembly’ as part of its Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) programme.
The first of three main subsystems will be delivered this month. The other two subsystems will be handed over later this year.
The programme aims to combine a laser system on a fighter jet to defend against incoming missile threats.
According to AFRL, the SHiELD programme is developing a ‘directed energy laser system’. It will be housed in an aircraft pod.
This laser system will showcase the defensive capabilities of aircraft against surface-to-air (SAM) and air-to-air (AAM) missiles.
SHiELD programme manager Jeff Heggemeier said: “Over the last five years we have worked side-by-side with Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, advancing the technology that would make this system work.
“To finally have the subsystems in the lab, will be a huge step forward in seeing the system to completion.”
After receiving its first major assembly, the SHiELD pod structure will enable AFRL scientists and engineers to start the complete system’s integration.
AFRL noted that the full system test is scheduled for fiscal year 2024.
AFRL Directed Energy Directorate director Kelly Hammett said: “Those critical demonstrations show that our directed energy system is on track to be a game-changer for our warfighters.
“The ability to shoot down missiles in flight, and operate in denied environments, increases the advantage we have over our adversaries.”