Lockheed Martin is showing off new fiber-optic laser technology capable of frying the engine of a truck located more than a mile away. Known as Athena, for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, the laser was unveiled after the military contractor made it known that it is also experimenting with fiber-optics that could disable enemy warplanes and rockets flying overhead.
Lockheed tested Athena this week, proving it has the precision and power to knock out a small, stationary truck sitting on cinderblocks. The truck didn't explode, unlike in the movies, but the engine was rendered useless, with Lockheed suggesting there could be a future in nonlethal weapons.
“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy system,” Keoki Jackson, Lockheed's chief technology officer said, according to Phys.org. “We are investing in every component of the system -- from the optics and beam control to the laser itself -- to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”
This demonstration, Athena's first, used a method called spectral beam, which combines a number of different lasers (think of the Death Star's Superlaser). But it's also based on Lockheed laser technology that's been deployed in a series of tests against would-be combatants attacking from the sky.
There's the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser, as well as a new laser turret that Lockheed has been developing with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Then there's the airborne laser turret that can turn 360 degrees, aiming at enemy aircraft and, if all goes to plan, leaving them in the same condition as the truck's engine.