Military Review

How to protect airbases from a swarm of drones. Lockheed Martin ATHENA Combat Laser System (USA)

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General view of the experimental complex ATHENA



On November 7, another US military laser was tested at the Fort Sill training ground (Oklahoma state). Lockheed Martin's ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) complex successfully completed the test task and hit several unmanned aircraft and helicopter-type targets. An important feature of the tests passed was the use of all the standard communication and control systems that ensure the integration of the combat laser in the general contours of the troops.

Simulation of battle


Lockheed Martin revealed the key features of the recent tests of its combat laser. The purpose of these events was not only to verify the emitter itself and its means in the fight against group goals, but also to test the entire combat complex, which includes various communication and control systems.

The ATHENA laser was placed at the training ground and connected using an unnamed type radar using standard communications equipment. The purpose of the radar was to monitor the air situation and provide data to the laser control panel. The ATHENA product, respectively, was responsible for tracking and defeating issued targets. Thus, a full-fledged laser defense system was actually deployed at the training ground. The complex was entrusted to the US Air Force.

Several unmanned target aircraft of aircraft and helicopter types entered the covered airspace sequentially and at short intervals. Light UAVs imitated enemy attacks. The radar of the tested complex detected all of these objects and issued data to the command post.


Slewing ring with radiating system


After that, the ATHENA battle laser sequentially hit all detected targets. The system carried out a turn of the emitter, aimed it at an air object and detained a beam on it. After a few seconds of such a “backlight”, the target structure was destroyed. Immediately after that, there was a retargeting to the new target.

It is alleged that all UAVs of two types were successfully affected. Past tests have confirmed the ability of the ATHENA combat laser to operate as part of a full-fledged air defense system and solve the tasks of intercepting unmanned aerial vehicles. The ability to destroy a large number of targets in minimal time was also shown.

Features of the complex


The tests involved an experienced ATHENA laser of characteristic architecture. Part of the equipment was mounted on several trailers. On the roof of one of the containers guidance systems, a radiator and optical-electronic devices for searching for targets are placed. In the future, it is possible to rebuild the complex with a view to placing it on various chassis, on stationary objects, etc.

The basis of the ATHENA complex is the 30 kilowatt laser ALADIN (Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative). The ALADIN product includes three 10 kW fiber optic lasers. Using optical systems, the radiation of three lasers is combined into a beam of the required power directed to the target.

An emitter of this design is mounted on a swinging part and on a swivel base. Together with it, an optical unit is mounted on vertical aiming drives for monitoring, searching and tracking targets.



The main feature of the ATHENA complex is the design of the ALADIN laser. It includes three separate lasers, which leads to certain advantages over other similar systems. By using three lasers together or in different combinations, the ATHENA system can deliver a beam with a choice of power from 10 to 30 kW.

The operator or automation can choose the most efficient laser mode at which the power best suits the type of target. This increases application flexibility. weaponsand also extends component life and reduces operating costs.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the performance characteristics of the ATHENA product has not yet been published. The range of effective "firing" at air and ground targets of various types remains unknown. Also, the necessary time of impact on the target of one type or another, including depending on the distance to it.

Laser control is carried out from automated workstations of operators. The command post can exchange data with other radio equipment and receive data on the air situation. Based on them, data are generated for preliminary guidance of the laser installation. Accurate guidance and tracking are carried out using the complex’s own optics.

During the test


Recent ATHENA product trials were not the first. Various tests of the ALADIN laser and other ATHENA components began several years ago. Since 2015, the system is regularly checked at the test site and the results of such checks are published. Some of these tests were very interesting and were spectacular.

How to protect airbases from a swarm of drones. Lockheed Martin ATHENA Combat Laser System (USA)
Laser test on a car, 2015


So, in the spring of 2015, ATHENA demonstrated the ability to deal with automotive equipment. An unprotected vehicle was installed a mile from the battle laser. The 30 kilowatt beam was sent to the hood. The metal part warmed up and began to melt. Through a burnt hole, the laser began to act on the engine - it soon stopped. Such a test showed the practical capabilities of a combat laser. However, the exact time of the impact on the target was not called, which left some questions.

In August 2017, the laser was tested for multiple air targets. During these tests, the ATHENA product hit five Outlaw MQM-170C target drones in minimum time. The published frames from these tests show how the targets were defeated. The laser beam was aimed at the tail of the target, and after a few seconds it burned out. An UAV without a keel and stabilizer went into an uncontrolled fall.

Recent tests conducted a few days ago confirmed the ability of ATHENA to work as part of a complex and hit group targets. Probably, in the near future, new tests of one kind or another will be conducted.

Weapons are not for battle


In recent trials, the operation of the ATHENA complex was controlled by US Air Force personnel. In the future, they or their colleagues will have to master new promising laser weapons, including developed by Lockheed Martin. At the same time, apparently, the ATHENA product in its current form will not enter service.


UAV attack, 2017 d. After a few seconds, the design of the device will burn out


As the name of the project implies, the ATHENA / ALADIN combat laser is being developed on an initiative basis and is intended only for testing and testing new technologies. The finished sample is developed and tested under the supervision of representatives of the army, who are given the opportunity to assess its prospects.

In the future, the ATHENA experimental prototype may become the basis for new equipment intended for delivery to the troops and full operation. Products of this class are considered by the Air Force command as a promising air defense system. Unlike other samples of the traditional look, they will provide protection of objects from complex small-sized targets, including group.

However, even the approximate timelines for turning the ATHENA experimental laser into a full-fledged combat model remain unknown. The corresponding order may appear in the next few years, after which the necessary work will start. However, another development is possible, in which ATHENA will remain a purely experimental model.

Currently, the United States is developing a large number of military lasers of various types and for various purposes. The ATHENA project is one of many, and it has to face serious competition. The customer can start its further development and bring it to adoption, or prefer another project. What will be the final decision of the US Air Force on the topic of ATHENA is unclear. However, Lockheed Martin successfully demonstrates all the positive qualities of its development and is quite able to interest the customer.
Author:
Photos used:
Lockheed Martin / lockheedmartin.com
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  1. Sergey39
    Sergey39 12 November 2019 05: 12 New
    0
    All these developments of combat lasers, servo skeletons, android robots are useless without compact powerful sources of energy, which are not and are not expected.
    1. Thrifty
      Thrifty 12 November 2019 05: 39 New
      +1
      Sergey 39 - this is the work for the future, tomorrow. A latecomer today may be late forever. ...
      1. Sergey39
        Sergey39 12 November 2019 13: 55 New
        -3
        So let them work. And in the future we will take advantage of their best practices, as they always do. We are also working on it. Including over compact nuclear reactors. And here we seem to be ahead of them. For laser systems just fit.
    2. Sergey_G_M
      Sergey_G_M 12 November 2019 05: 57 New
      +3
      To protect stationary objects, compactness is not so important.
      The cost of the system and the cost of hitting one target, as well as the rate of fire, are important.
      The article states that 5 goals were defeated in the shortest time - what time was not indicated))
      Well, the cases when all three lasers can work for the same purpose is from the field of a laboratory experiment, the adversary will use data on the location of the installations and the terrain to prevent this.
      Yes, and the phrase
      After a few seconds of such a "backlight", the target structure was destroyed
      a little confused how much is a few seconds? when flying an UAV with an envelope of relief, a few seconds may be enough to leave the affected area (well, if not the first, so the second or third)
      How will the system work in fog or rain?
      And so the direction of air defense for the protection of stationary objects is promising, but it can be seen long before being adopted.
      1. VicktorVR
        VicktorVR 12 November 2019 06: 36 New
        +3
        All three lasers are in one place and give out one common beam into which optics brings them.
    3. Jack O'Neill
      Jack O'Neill 12 November 2019 06: 16 New
      -1
      I am begging you...
    4. Civil
      Civil 12 November 2019 13: 20 New
      0
      Urgent need engineer Garin, urgently sculpt a hyperboid. And besides jokes, cunning Americans will not do so many kinds of lasers in vain. Again, not to be late as with an UAV.
  2. Gardamir
    Gardamir 12 November 2019 05: 44 New
    +5
    The right article. It seems to me that the development of drones is now at the level of how raevites were aircraft in 1914. They shot at each other with pistols, carried a couple of bombs in the cockpit and put a frying pan. But how aviation has changed by 1941. Today we simply cannot imagine the future of drones in 20 years
  3. VicktorVR
    VicktorVR 12 November 2019 06: 39 New
    +1
    Everything is great, everything works, at least at the training ground. But it is not clear why instead of a laser it is impossible to use a heavy machine gun? Two orders of magnitude cheaper, more compact and do not have to hold for several seconds, just a queue of a dozen bullets.
    1. riwas
      riwas 12 November 2019 08: 47 New
      +2
      Ours conducted an experiment: the destruction of one UAV takes one belt of a heavy machine gun.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 12 November 2019 12: 04 New
      +3
      When firing upwards after a few hundred meters, the bullets will lose speed.
      Even a 37 mm anti-aircraft gun is not enough to fight drones.
      The carapace could not bring down the drone from the cannons during the tests.
      1. Saxahorse
        Saxahorse 12 November 2019 22: 53 New
        0
        Quote: voyaka uh
        The carapace could not bring down the drone from the cannons during the tests.

        It may well be. The probability of a direct projectile hit is less than 1% at a distance of 1 km. Those. one shell of 100-200 pieces and then if the drone is large enough. From one and a half to two kilometers you can already drop the entire ammunition past the target.
  4. rocket757
    rocket757 12 November 2019 07: 32 New
    +1
    The best defense is an attack ... prevention, i.e. "disinfection" before it all flies / flies.
    Lasers and the rest, this is the last frontier from what will survive after the "preventive" actions.
    Let it be for now!
  5. G. Georgiev
    G. Georgiev 12 November 2019 07: 54 New
    -2
    ..How many kilowatts of power does the Russian Peresvet laser have .. I heard about installing a 200-kilowatt laser on a new Russian icebreaker.
  6. riwas
    riwas 12 November 2019 08: 54 New
    +1
    They talked on TV. The laser depends too much on weather conditions: rain, snow, fog and atmospheric distortion from the haze. You can not consider it a universal tool. A comprehensive solution is needed, including fire damage from remotely detonated shells.
    1. Civil
      Civil 12 November 2019 13: 23 New
      0
      Quote: riwas
      They talked on TV. The laser depends too much on weather conditions: rain, snow, fog and atmospheric distortion from the haze. You can not consider it a universal tool. A comprehensive solution is needed, including fire damage from remotely detonated shells.

      Tie with TV, everything is already bad there lately. Ignoramuses alone.
  7. Operator
    Operator 12 November 2019 09: 39 New
    +5
    30 kilowatt laser ... a few seconds, - and if several UAVs simultaneously fly up to the guarded object at an altitude of 1 meters with a line-of-sight range of 2 km and a flight time of 1 second, not to mention the fact that they can perform the anti-aircraft maneuver “snake”?
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 12 November 2019 11: 15 New
      0
      Penza from the "Radio Plant" proposed the use of special NURS with air blasting.

      But the essence is by and large not the point. Detection problem and guidance problem. The Americans seem to have decided them. The rest is secondary.
      1. Operator
        Operator 12 November 2019 11: 21 New
        +4
        Secondarily - the defeat time in a few seconds with a flight time of 1 second?
        1. Lopatov
          Lopatov 12 November 2019 11: 26 New
          +2
          Quote: Operator
          Secondarily - the defeat time in a few seconds with a flight time of 1 second?

          Yes.
          The actuator can easily be replaced if there are the previous two points - detection and guidance.
          1. Operator
            Operator 12 November 2019 11: 32 New
            +2
            The lesion time is determined by the energy capabilities of the laser, and not by the actuator.
            1. Lopatov
              Lopatov 12 November 2019 11: 39 New
              +1
              The laser itself is the "executive mechanism" of the UAV control system.
              1. Sergey_G_M
                Sergey_G_M 12 November 2019 17: 21 New
                +1
                I agree with you that detection and selection for this system is extremely important, small-sized targets on the background of the earth are difficult to distinguish and identify in a short time, and without selection, you can fry all the birds or cyclists, is this a big question for the Americans.
                And with ignorance, I think there are no special problems.
        2. Good_Anonymous
          Good_Anonymous 13 November 2019 00: 58 New
          -3
          Quote: Operator
          defeat time in a few seconds


          Defeat time car few seconds.
    2. Bersaglieri
      Bersaglieri 12 November 2019 13: 07 New
      0
      Exactly what. Here, for example, the neighboring material is just about that: https://topwar.ru/164570-roj-bespilotnikov-buduschee-boevyh-dejstvij.html
  8. bairat
    bairat 12 November 2019 11: 59 New
    0
    And if you put a mirror coating on the drone?
    1. Proctologist
      Proctologist 12 November 2019 13: 20 New
      -1
      Shield and sword. Applying reflective / heat-insulating coatings, giving the drone / rocket rotation to prevent focusing on one point - all this works limitedly, but it does not solve the problem radically, a more powerful laser still shoots down the aircraft.
      1. Saxahorse
        Saxahorse 12 November 2019 22: 50 New
        0
        Quote: Proctologist
        a more powerful laser still knocks down an aircraft.

        The aerosol used in KAZ tanks, for example, suppresses the beam completely and in addition disguises the target.
        1. Good_Anonymous
          Good_Anonymous 13 November 2019 01: 02 New
          -2
          Quote: Saxahorse
          Aerosol used in KAZ tanks


          How will she close the flying drone?
          1. Saxahorse
            Saxahorse 13 November 2019 21: 50 New
            0
            Quote: Good_Anonymous
            How will she close the flying drone?

            Option A - shooting a cartridge with an aerosol, such as shooting dipole reflectors.
            Option B - banal smoke from the belly, the first drone will not help much, but the swarm will hide qualitatively.
            1. Good_Anonymous
              Good_Anonymous 13 November 2019 22: 25 New
              -2
              Quote: Saxahorse
              Option A - Shooting an Aerosol Cassette


              If the cassette does not have its own engine, it will lag behind in seconds.

              Quote: Saxahorse
              Option B - banal smoke from the belly, the first drone will not help much


              In addition to the question, how wide will the smoke strip from one drone have at a speed of at least 80 km / h, you have provided target selection. The smoke generator is the first to be distributed, the second is its changer, and so on.
              1. Saxahorse
                Saxahorse 13 November 2019 22: 59 New
                0
                Quote: Good_Anonymous
                If the cassette does not have its own engine, it will lag behind in seconds.

                After all, not relatively harmless scout drones are straining us. Roy will surely hit drones go, with missiles on suspensions. Rocket and throw the jammer in the direction of the laser.

                Quote: Good_Anonymous
                In addition to the question, how wide will the smoke strip from one drone have

                It depends on how you implement it constructively. A helicopter-type drone or copter with a bunch of propellers will make a wide band by default. In addition, drones can also maneuver, including deep into the smoke (or aerosol) curtain. He laid the bend and hid himself and expanded the veil.

                In general, the laser has many weaknesses. He doesn’t know how to shoot in areas, it takes time to destroy a target, range-power is limited. So far, a bunch of unresolved issues.
                1. Good_Anonymous
                  Good_Anonymous 13 November 2019 23: 04 New
                  -2
                  Quote: Saxahorse
                  Rocket and throw the jammer in the direction of the laser.


                  If the drone is the carrier of such missiles, then it would be better if the laser launched a missile from the warhead OF.

                  Quote: Saxahorse
                  drones can also maneuver, including deep into the smoke (or aerosol) curtain.


                  They know how, but thereby they cause fire on themselves. And the efficiency of the smoke screen from a fast-flying drone seems to me, hmm, no.

                  Quote: Saxahorse
                  He doesn’t know how to shoot in areas, it takes time to destroy a target, range-power is limited. So far, a bunch of unresolved issues.


                  This is probably true, but now these issues are poorly resolved or not resolved at all.
                  1. Saxahorse
                    Saxahorse 13 November 2019 23: 10 New
                    0
                    Quote: Good_Anonymous
                    If the drone is the carrier of such missiles, then it would be better if the laser launched a missile from the warhead OF.

                    So it will be for sure. And with a hybrid seeker, so that in the optical and in the radio range. And then the second, with a jammer. That's why I spoke about aerosol and recalled that they are qualitatively closed in the radio range and in the optical for a few minutes. A swarm can afford to lose the first few drones to open and suppress an object’s air defense.
                    1. Good_Anonymous
                      Good_Anonymous 13 November 2019 23: 39 New
                      -2
                      Quote: Saxahorse
                      If the drone is the carrier of such missiles, then it would be better if the laser launched a missile from the warhead OF.

                      So it will be for sure.


                      Then there will be not a swarm of drones, but a flock.
  9. Bersaglieri
    Bersaglieri 12 November 2019 13: 06 New
    +1
    For battle, an orderly more powerful laser is needed.
  10. Saxahorse
    Saxahorse 12 November 2019 22: 47 New
    0
    The article is not bad, thanks to the author! It is especially interesting with three lasers in a beam, through one optics.

    On the other hand, the author also correctly pointed out the problems of lasers. Lasers are limited in range, this one, similar to 1-2 km, is designed only for its 30 kW. Again, the laser is limited by weather conditions and smoke or aerosol protection is a big problem for it. The drone snorted in a cloud, and closed the whole sector immediately. The power is also small, a few seconds for each drone of which in the attack a swarm? But the swarm is in fact 10-20 minimum .. They will fly and gnaw. laughing

    In general, it seems that it’s too early to show off, to see how a 300 kilowatt laser does this job. Or maybe megawatt will not be enough.
  11. Operator
    Operator 13 November 2019 01: 49 New
    +2
    Quote: Good_Anonymous
    car

    "Several times entered the covered airspace in sequence and at small intervals unmanned aerial vehicles target aircraft and helicopter types"