Laser weapons are not just in the realm of science fiction any more. Buck Rogers would be proud of the new ATHENA laser, even if the system is as big as an 18-wheeler.

Aerospace and technology giant Lockheed Martin announced on Tuesday that its new 30-kilowatt ATHENA laser system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a field test, demonstrating the revolutionary device’s precision capability to protect military forces and critical infrastructure worldwide.

New ATHENA Laser Can Target Vehicles A Mile Away

Known as ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset), the near-final prototype laser system burned through the steel hood and engine in just a few seconds from more than a mile away. Although the target truck was mounted on a test platform, it’s engine was running to simulate a live test scenario.

ATHENA laser is the most powerful laser weapon ever developed

The first field test of this integrated 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system prototype was a complete success. Using a method called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules combine to create a single, powerful beam with much greater efficiency than than the multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems.

Lockheed Martin describes the ATHENA laser as having the “highest power ever documented by a laser weapon of its type.”

Statement from Lockheed Martin CTO

“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” noted Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer. “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. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”

Valuable development for perimeter defense systems

Analysts have commented that this new long-range laser system will be a useful (and possibly non-lethal) method of defense against vehicles being driven towards guard towers, military bases or other important facilities.