Lockheed Martin has shown off its lethal ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) laser weapon system in a terrifying new video.
The defence giant, which recently bagged the contract to work on nuclear cruise missile for long-range bombers, demoed the deadly ground-based weapon system in a series of tests conducted at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico from last month.
In the video, the weapon could be seen taking out unmanned Outlaw drones with its 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) laser. It destroyed five airborne aerial systems – with a wingspan of 10.8ft (3.3m) – by causing "loss of control and structural failure".
Apparently, the laser, after being locked onto the most vulnerable part of the UAV, used its own fuel source to bring it down to the desert floor.
The tests were conducted in conjunction with the US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command to demonstrate how ATHENA's advanced beam control technology and an efficient fibre laser could eliminate aerial threats.
The system, powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbogenerator, is still a prototype and Lockheed Martin says it will conduct post-mission reviews with the army and use the data collected to refine the system and bolster the development of advanced laser systems.
"The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we've seen against static targets at our own test range," Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin's chief technology officer said.
"As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we're making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range."
Invisible, silent, and cost-efficient laser weapon systems (firing lasers would be cheaper than missiles) have been in development for years and are expected to define future of warfare. Lockheed itself has been working on ATHENA for a long time.
In 2015, the company revealed a photograph showing how the laser system melted the engine of a truck within seconds. So far, it hasn't been bundled with any military equipment, but the latest video could change that real soon.