Lockheed Martin was awarded with a contract for something called Helios — the US Navy’s new ray gun device that’s starting out with a $150 million dollar contract and another $942.8 million in contract options. Helios, as the project stands, stands for High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance — a solid state laser weapon that is going to be powerful enough to knock drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky, along with having the ability to disable the intelligence-gathering capabilities of anybody’s drones that are performing ISR, while performing our OWN bit of ISR — Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. Basically, a laser system that can not only kill a drone, but disable the ability for anyone using drones to collect information, while we are using the laser to collect information. How’s THAT for some Star Wars shit?
What’s super cool about this is that Lockheed Martin delivered a 60kW solid-state laser to the US Army a while ago, in a program called RELI — which was twice as powerful as the laser called ATHENA, at 30kW, that disabled a truck at over a mile away.
Disabled a truck. At over a mile away. A laser. We are in some amazing photonics territory, kids.
The “laser dazzler” part of HELIOS is ostensibly using the laser to disable equipment that collects data, from long distances away. Ruining the ability for the “enemy” to gather information.
These lasers are solid-state lasers, which means they don’t have any gas components (like dye lasers), chemicals, or gasses, in gas lasers. This is a solid material, usually a rare earth doped glass or crystal that is lased with absolutely incredible results with respect to output. I mean, come on — 60 kilowatts of a laser?! That’s some amazing progress in photonics. Your average pen laser is milliwatts of power, this is kilowatts of laser power. This Helios system is slated to be delivered some time in 2020 — Lockheed Martin’s going to deliver one for mounting on an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, and another to the White Sands Missile Range.
“This is a very big deal,” said Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, a longtime advocate of lasers. [From the blog Breaking Defense] “It is clear evidence of the progress that has been made over the last several years on maturing solid state lasers. We are talking about lasers that now have the power and beam quality needed to defend against UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), small boat threats, and possibly some weapons (e.g. incoming missiles) over short ranges. It also highlights how serious the Navy is about fielding non-kinetic defenses with deep ‘electric’ magazines,” Gunzinger said. Unlike guns and missiles, a laser doesn’t run out of ammunition as long as it has electrical power.”
What’s cool about these solid state laser weapons is that they are like our solid-state laser illuminators that companies like X-Laser are making — as long as they have electricity, they will work, given all the components are kept cool inside, like any LED product or lighting system. As long as they have power, they will work and work and work. This is in direct opposition to chemical laser systems that will work once as they lase all of their chemical or gas and have to be refilled or refueled. About nine years ago I wrote about the YAL-1, which was the Air Force’s anti-ballistic missile jet plane-mounted laser — a chemical laser that could fire for a few seconds before having to refuel its chemicals, which consisted of dozens of thousands of pounds of really nasty stuff. That limits your laser’s effective lasing time, doesn’t it. That, tied with the fact that this laser system was on a big jet, meant that after a few minutes of using the weapon, it would have to land, rearm, and refuel. The project was obviously scrapped in place of the solid state laser program, which has grown like mold — rapidly and without pause.
For those of you out there decrying the development of lasers as weapons instead of something more peaceful, let me say this — it is quite often in our world that military development translates into civilian development, and in our case, entertainment development. We have socapex, for example, because we stole it from military usage. The way we coil cables came from NASA. These developments will lead to amazing developments in our own industry, if they haven’t done so already — high energy solid state fiber lasers are used in manufacturing, which will lead to developments of amazing new lighting technologies. I’ll bet my metal heart valve on it.
Here’s a pretty awesome press release from Lockheed Martin:
BOTHELL, Wash., March 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) a $150 million contract, with options worth up to $942.8 million, for the development, manufacture and delivery of two high power laser weapon systems, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and counter-Unmanned Aerial System (counter-UAS) capabilities, by fiscal year 2020. With the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system, Lockheed Martin will help the Navy take a major step forward in its goal to field laser weapon systems aboard surface ships.
“The HELIOS program is the first of its kind, and brings together laser weapon, long-range ISR and counter-UAS capabilities, dramatically increasing the situational awareness and layered defense options available to the U.S. Navy,” said Michele Evans, vice president and general manager of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors. “This is a true system of capabilities, and we’re honored the Navy trusted Lockheed Martin to be a part of fielding these robust systems to the fleet.”
HELIOS combines three key capabilities, brought together for the first time in one weapon system:
- A high-energy laser system: The high-energy fiber laser will be designed to counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats. The energy and thermal management system will leverage Lockheed Martin experience on Department of Defense programs, and the cooling system will be designed for maximum adaptability onboard ships. In addition, Lockheed Martin will bring decades of shipboard integration experience, reducing risk and increasing reliability.
- A long-range ISR capability: HELIOS sensors will be part of an integrated weapon system, designed to provide decision-makers with maximum access to information. HELIOS data will be available on the Lockheed Martin-led Aegis Combat System.
- A counter-UAS dazzler capability: The HELIOS dazzler will be designed to obscure adversarial UAS-based ISR capabilities.
In this first increment of the U.S. Navy’s Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program, Lockheed Martin will deliver two units for test by fiscal year 2020. One unit will be delivered for shipboard integration on an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and one unit will be used for land testing at White Sands Missile Range.
“Lockheed Martin’s spectral beam combined fiber lasers bring flexibility and adaptability to defensive and offensive missions,” said Dr. Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems. “Our design is scalable, and we can optimize it to meet requirements for future increments.”
Lockheed Martin has more than 40 years of experience developing laser weapon systems. The HELIOS award leverages technology building blocks from internal research and development projects, including the ATHENA system and ALADIN laser, as well as contract experience gained from programs such as the U.S. Army / Directed Energy Joint Technology Office RELI program, the U.S. Air Force LANCE program and the U.S. Navy HEFL program.
For more information, visit: www.lockheedmartin.com/laserweaponsystems.
You have to give the Marketing team at Lockheed major props for this one too, as the name HELIOS, even though it is an acronym, is the personification of the sun. At 60-150kW, that’s exactly what they’ve been tasked to make, a laser personification of the sun:
Helios (/ˈhiːli.ɒs/; Ancient Greek: Ἥλιος Hēlios; Latinized as Helius; Ἠέλιος in Homeric Greek) is the god and personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. He is the son of the Titan Hyperion and the Titaness Theia(according to Hesiod), also known as Euryphaessa (in Homeric Hymn 31) and brother of the goddesses Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn.
Helios was described as a handsome young man crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun, who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night. In the Homeric Hymn to Helios, Helios is said to drive a golden chariot drawn by steeds (HH 31.14–15); and Pindar speaks of Helios’s “fire-darting steeds” (Olympian Ode 7.71). Still later, the horses were given fire related names: Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon, and Phlegon.