Lockheed Martin has received a $26.3 million contract to develop and produce a laser than can be tested on a fighter jet by 2021.
The initiative will see Lockheed develop a high power fiber laser as part of US Air Force's Research Lab's Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) programme, says Lockheed in a statement.
"Lockheed Martin continues to rapidly advance laser weapon systems and the technologies that make them possible," says Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin.
"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."
ShiED has three subsystems: the beam control system that directs the laser to the target, a pod that powers and cools the laser, and the laser itself.
"Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a U.S. Army ground vehicle. It's a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform. It's exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft," says Afzal.
"The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles and ships."