USAF tests Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA laser weapon system

11 November 2019 (Last Updated November 11th, 2019 10:44)

The US Air Force (USAF) has tested Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser weapon system at a test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, US.

USAF tests Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA laser weapon system
The ATHENA system shown here destroyed multiple drones in a real-world demonstration for the airforce. Credit: Lockheed Martin / PRNewsfoto.

The US Air Force (USAF) has tested Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser weapon system at a test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, US.

During the demonstration, the laser weapon system engaged and shot down a variety of fixed-wing and rotary drones.

The test was performed in a fully netted engagement environment.

Airmen were provided access to a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor to track the drones.

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said: “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.”

The real-world demonstration provided a glimpse of the ATHENA laser weapon’s capabilities against unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Lockheed Martin Missile Defense Programs vice-president Sarah Reeves said: “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.”

The company’s ATHENA system provides a cost-effective anti-drone capability to troops.

Engagements during the demonstration resembled those encountered by the military.

In September 2017, the US Army performed a series of tests on the ATHENA system. The system downed five Outlaw unmanned aerial systems during the tests at the army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, US.

The prototype laser weapon system can defeat a range of close-in, low-value threats such as improvised rockets, trucks, small boats, unmanned aerial systems and vehicles.