Lockheed Martin has won a new contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop and produce high-energy airborne laser weapons that will be built into tactical fighter aircraft. The aim is to have these lethal high-energy fiber laser weapons augmented existing kinetic solutions used by the air force.

Experts are of the view that these weapons can help non-stealth aircraft protect themselves against enemy missiles and may also make them less vulnerable to advanced air defense systems.

It also doesn’t hurt that with lasers, there’s a low cost per shot as it’s going to be much cheaper than a missile in almost every case. Moreover, having laser means that there’s no need to reload and in defense roles that could be the difference between life and death.

Lockheed Martin has confirmed in a press release that it’s “focused on developing a compact, high efficiency laser within challenging size, weight and power constraints.” The Air Force Research Laboratory is said to be planning a test for this weapon on a tactical fighter jet by 2021.

The company has already delivered a ground-based laser for U.S. Army vehicles. Rob Afzal, the senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin, points out that “It’s a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform.”

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