Lockheed Martin is developing a prototype laser turret that will enable the military aircraft to use laser weapon systems in order to combat enemy aircraft and missiles from any direction.
Developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the new system is named as aero-adaptive aero-optic beam control (ABC) turret.
According to Lockheed, the new turret is the first system that is capable of demonstrating a 360-degree field of regard for laser weapon systems on an aircraft flying near the speed of sound.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Strategic and Missile Defense Systems missile systems and advanced programs vice-president Doug Graham said: "This advanced turret design will enable tactical aircraft to have the same laser weapon system advantages as ground vehicles and ships.
"This is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems."
The company has verified the system’s performance in around 60 flight tests conducted in 2014 and 2015 using a business jet.
During the test, the aircraft travelled at jet cruise speeds and fired a low-power laser beam through the turret’s optical window to measure and verify successful performance in all directions.
Using aerodynamic and flow-control technology, the new system reduces the impacts of turbulence on a laser beam.
In addition, it ensures that the beam can get through the atmosphere to the target with the support of an optical compensation system that uses deformable mirrors.
DARPA and AFRL will use the test results to decide the future requirements for laser weapon systems on high-speed aircraft and expanding their effectiveness, the company stated.
Image: A green low-power laser beam passes through the turret on a research aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Air Force Research Laboratory.