[Defense in Brief] Coming soon: U.S. fighter planes with laser weapons

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has won a Pentagon contract to develop high-energy fiber lasers for American fighter planes by 2021. Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the directed energy weapon program builds on ground-based laser testing that has already been conducted. If successful, lasers will give the Air Force the capability to take down threats from the air, rather than relying on the Army or Navy to destroy them via ground- and sea-based systems. “We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system,” said D. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin. The company tested a system at White Sands Missile Range in September, downing five unmanned Outlaw drones. In March, Lockheed Martin produced a 58 kw beam from the system, which was a world record at the time.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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