Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is projecting to equip U.S. Air Force fighter jets with laser weapons by the middle of the decade, the website National Defense reported, quoting a company official.

”We’re committing to putting a laser pod equipped with a high-energy laser in the air within five years,” the website quoted Mark Stephen, Lockheed’s business development lead for strategic technology development of missiles and fire control division.

The boast comes after the company believes it has perfected the technology that enables the laser to locate its target and remain locked on it long enough to destroy the enemy.

”The beam director is the optical system that puts the high-energy light on target and keeps it there with enough precision to defeat the threat,” said Lockheed’s Robb Mansfield, senior manager of business development for laser and sensor systems in the company’s integrated warfare system and sensors business.

”We spent several years developing producible, low (size, weight and power) and low-cost tactical beam directors in house.”

Lockheed is a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD, program that has been developing a ”directed energy” weapons system that can be carried aloft by a plane in a pod to defeat air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.

The company also has been working with the Air Force, Army and Navy on laser weapons to defend against rockets, small drones and small attack boats, Mansfield said.

The beam director is to be first tested by the Army in late 2021 on its Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser, a 300-kilowatt ground-vehicle mounted weapon which is being designed to defeat drones, rockets, artillery and motors, according to Mansfield.

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