Silent, invisible, deadly. The powerful ATHENA laser weapon can destroy enemy threats within seconds. It just destroyed five Outlaw drones.
For the United States, thanks to pioneering efforts of American companies like Lockheed Martin and the military, laser weapons are no longer the stuff of Star Wars and Star Trek.
In near-term future battles, the U.S. military can choose to bring laser weapons mounted on vehicles, vessels, and more, to war. By comparison, the weapons of any enemy will look like bows and arrows.
ATHENA, (Advanced Test High Energy Asset), is one of the most exciting of these new American laser weapons. During recent testing with the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the 30-kilowatt weapon slayed five Outlaw drones. Not toy hobby sized drones, but drones with nearly 11 foot wingspans.
Scoreboard? 100 percent success.
And just two years ago, Lockheed Martin proved that ATHENA could also take down a truck by burning through its hood and engine – and from a mile away.
What are the advantages?
There are many advantages to bringing laser weapons to war. One key advantage is unlimited bullets. As long as there is power, ATHENA would have an unlimited magazine.
Another major advantage is speed. Laser weapons like ATHENA are lethal at the speed of light.
They are also silent, invisible and deadly – three characteristics very handy for stealth and surprise in the battlespace.
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Threats can come from any direction. ATHENA’s beam director and turret are designed to match this so the weapons can fire 360 degrees.
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How would it be used in the battlespace?
At 30-kilowatts, ATHENA is powerful enough to destroy drones, vehicles, rockets, boats and more.
One of the big challenges with lasers is how to make them truly practical. To be practical, they need to be compact, lightweight, powerful and transportable.
They also need to be both precise and flexible to defeat rapidly moving aircraft, vehicles, boats and weapons.
And for laser weapons to make their debut in the battlespace – they have to be proven to be reliable. With a 100 percent success rate against the drones, things look very promising for ATHENA to dominate.
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ATHENA could be used to protect a base against rockets and mortars, for example, or defend a field hospital from swarm of drones. A special operations team could use ATHENA to burn through a terrorist vehicle’s engine carrying explosives before it reaches a town center – and they could stop that vehicle from more than a mile away.
On the homeland, lasers like ATHENA could be put in fixed defense positions to provide reliable protection as well. They could be used to protect nuclear power plants, the power grid, dams and more. Laser systems could be used to protect ports and say, for example, burn through a terrorist boat attempting to place explosives on a cruise ship.