Lockheed Martin's latest weapon can stop a truck in its tracks from as far as a mile away without needing to set off dangerous explosives to destroy the entire truck.
The defense and security firm used high-powered laser to obliterate the engine of a stationary truck one mile away in a ground-based prototype of a 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system named ATHENA, short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset.
In a statement, Lockheed Martin says the system was able to disable the engine of a truck mounted on a testing platform with its engine and drive train running, by directing a high-quality fiber optic laser beam at the truck's engine.
"Fiber optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems," said Lockheed Martin chief technology officer Keoki Jackson. "We are investing in every component of the system -- from the optics and beam control to the laser itself -- to drive size, weight, and power efficiencies."
ATHENA was designed based on Lockheed Martin's Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon system used in demonstrations against small airborne and sea-based targets. Lockheed Martin developed a technique called spectral beam combining together three 10-kilowatt fiber laser modules into a single, powerful, high-quality 30-kilowatt beam that is more powerful than its 10-kilowatt components.
Such a weapon could be extremely useful in military operations aimed at stopping technicals, or trucks that are mounted with weapons on the back, which are extremely popular with militia groups all over the world, including ISIS. Even Sudan's state-owned Military Industry Corporation produces such systems. ATHENA will not explode these trucks Hollywood-style, but it will prevent them from reaching major infrastructures, guard towers, and military bases.
"This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships, and trucks," said Jackson.
Although laser weapons have carved a niche for themselves in developing countries because they are expensive to develop, one shot of laser is actually much cheaper than a missile. In some cases, such as in the laser weapons system of the USS Ponce, one of the U.S. Navy's oldest ships, a laser shot is even cheaper than a .50 caliber bullet, which costs three times more than a shot of laser in the ship's weapons system.
Lockheed Martin is not the only firm working on laser-based weapons. In fact, other companies have taken great strides in developing systems that can strike with great speed and without being detected.
In 2008, for instance, Boeing boasted the pinpoint accuracy of its 5.5-ton Advanced Tactical Laser system, which can shoot an intense infrared laser within a 12-mile range. The year after, Boeing announced that testing proved the ATL can successfully hit moving targets.