DARPA to Put Laser Turrets on Fighter Jets Next Year
Our first foray into laser-equipped combat aircraft was the Airborne Laser Testbed, a Boeing 747 with a gigantic chemically-pumped megawatt laser turret in its nose. It was pretty awesome from a conceptual standpoint, but it didn’t work very well, and was scrapped last year. This doesn’t mean that the idea of high-powered lasers on aircraft doesn’t make a lot of sense, and DARPA is still for ways to make it work. It’s working on two at the moment: the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), and Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC).
HELLADS will be a 150-kilowatt system that’s “ten times smaller and lighter” than current systems, suitable for use both on the ground and in the air in an air-to-ground attack role. The goal is to create a laser that weighs less that five kilos per kilowatt and fits into a total space of three cubic meters, which would make it small enough to weaponize my Volvo. The other system, ABC, is intended as more of a defensive weapon. It’ll be a small laser turret mounted on things like fighter aircraft that can shoot down incoming missiles.