US F-16 gets an anti-AAM laser weapon, first firings are coming

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin has delivered the LANCE-directed energy weapon planned for use on the F-16 to the US Air Force Research Laboratory, learned, citing open sources.

US F-16 gets an anti-AAM laser weapon, first firings are coming
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

US company Lockheed Martin has delivered the lowest power and lightest high-energy laser weapon system it has ever produced to the US Air Force. The system developed under the LANCE project will be integrated into air platforms, especially the F-16, in the form of a capsule.

As part of the US Air Force High Energy Laser Display [SHiELD] self-defense program, Lockheed Martin was awarded the first contract to design, develop and manufacture LANCE in November 2017.

LANCE is small in size to fit in a capsule form and consumes low power to be used in the F-16. The laser weapon is designed to be used especially against air-to-air missiles. It is not yet known when the LANCE system will begin test firings by F-16s.

If the system is successful, a Hard-Kill defense system will be developed that will be effective against RF seekers after the DIRCM systems that are effective against IR/IIR seekers.

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Photo credit: USAF

However, before the first aerial firings of the laser weapon can take place, the US Air Force must integrate the laser weapon onto the F-16 airframe and connect the weapon itself to the thermal system that controls LANCE’s heating and cooling.

The American online publication Breaking Defense writes that the Lockheed Martin company played a leading role in the development of the weapon, but two other companies were also involved: Northrop Grumman and Boeing. The former developed the beam control system that directs the laser to a specific target, and Boeing developed the container subsystem that will house the laser weapon.

Kent Wood, Acting Director of AFRL’s Energy Directorate, commented on the latest acquisition, stating that the most important period of LANCE’s “lifetime” lies ahead, namely wargame research, mission analyses, wargame duration, and how the laser weapon integrated into the F-16 can assist in accomplishing mission objectives. “Specific targets for future tests and demonstrations will also be determined by the results of these studies,” Wood added.


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