Contracts Awarded to Develop Laser Pods that Shoot Down Missiles

Laser PodsThe U.S. handed out two contracts Monday to Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to develop laser pods that can be mounted on aircraft and shoot down missiles.

Under Project Endurance, Northrop Grumman received a $14.6 million contract and Lockheed Martin received $11.4 million to develop laser weapons to protect manned and unmanned aircraft. ¬†Project Endurance was included in the¬†Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) fiscal year 2014 budget.

Endurance was born out of DARPA’s Excalibur program in which engineers have worked to “develop coherent optical phased array technologies to enable scalable laser weapons that are 10 times lighter and more compact than existing high-power chemical laser systems,” according to a DARPA release.

Research on lasers has advanced to such a point the military feels ready to install them aboard aircraft and utilize them as a key defense system.

Of course, this is certainly not the first time the military has tried to build laser weapons onto aircraft. There was the ill fated Airborne Laser program that was engineered to shoot down ballistic missiles. However, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended up doing most of the shooting when he killed the program along with other that he deemed unrealistic and too expensive.

Laser Pod

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Michael Hoffman
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  • Brain

    I guess this also goes a long ways in answering the threat of Russian T-50’s, or Chinese J-20’s, breaking through to our airborne command/control planes.

    • Rest Pal

      Pipe dream.

      Even if the US can afford to spend 150 million on R&D, it won’t see any tangible result for a decade or more. And there is no guarantee that the US can survive a decade.

      • Josh

        lol, $150 million will get you 1 F-22; the Pentagon spends around $60 billion a year on black projects.

    • Ryan

      I think your right, but moreover its to counter chinas developing longrange anti ship weapons.

  • I wonder if you could slap a few of these to an AC-130 to use against ground targets

  • PLASleeper
  • PLASleeper
  • PLASleeper

    STAR WARS here we come!!! I hope we fine tune this technology soon, well done.

  • MCQknight

    I assume that the power necessary for “shooting down” air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles would be much lower than that for a balistic missile since a) the targets are smaller, and b) as they are being shot AT you not over you they are much closer. Plus you probably wouldn’t have to destroy the missile outright but just destroy or blind the sensor guiding the missile to the aircraft.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Goes nicely with the rapid improvement in the state of the IR detection art.

  • Seen this in some sci fic movie someplace, forgot title.
    & Airwolf 2 copter had nose Laser but for weapon use not shooting down missiles , See Airwolf on DVD

  • hibeam

    This is a great bearded lunatic deterrent. You don’t get your 23 virgins. What you do get is blinded. Takes all the fun out of Jihad.

    • Big-Dean

      oh drats, I was just about to sign up at, I hear that their WEBSITE is
      working just fine ;-P

  • Johannes


  • Dfens

    I understand they are going to test these lasers by mounting them on sharks first.

    • tmb2

      LCS’s Anti-mine module?

    • Hoef

      Nah. Because of the sequester, they will have to settle for ill-tempered sea bass.

  • anthony

    It should be able to shoot its beamer milliseconds on more then one two or 3 targets..

  • RWood

    When I saw the picture, the first thing that came into mind was the 1985 Val Kilmer movie Real Genius. Now all we need is a house filled with popcorn kernels.

  • TonyC.

    The idea of laser’s to destroy missiles is appealing, The problem is the power the laser’s can generate is usually required to hold a single point for over a second. Moving aircraft and missiles don’t allow that much time. It will be intersting to see what comes out of this project?

    • Paul

      A laser guidance(2nd/3rd laser) directing the turret probably can fix that -similarly found on the YAL 1 testbed.

    • Curt

      The NKC-135A Airborne Laser Lab destroyed Sidewinder missiles in flight in the 1980s. It’s a matter of powerdensity not aiming.

    • Steve N

      The target-acquire-and-hold tech should be fine, unless the target is moving very erratically. The problem is the power source for the laser. Lasers are so inefficient that the power source would have to be gigantic for a laser powerful enough to damage missiles etc.

  • Lance

    Think this is wishful thinking by USAF brass. We tried this many time lasers wont make our planes invincible and so we will waste billions on a failed experiment again. Ooooff.

    • Steve N

      Thank you. The lasers themselves aren’t the problem. All the tech is there. It’s the power source. Lasers are too inefficient at this point in time. The power source would have to be gigantic. i.e. AC-130 or 747-size to carry it, at least. Certainly not a drone.

  • STemplar
  • Brian B. Mulholland

    TonyC, the state of the art IS improving. Besides, if the missile is coming right at you, you have a low-deflection shot. And MCQKnight is right, it’s enough to blind it.


    They had a verson where the system would be placed on a Boeing 747. It purpose was only to shoot down ICBM Missiles.

  • AntiChina

    The IRCM technology to aim a laser at an incoming missile is already proven and has been in use for decades. I can see this working on the sensitive seeker head of missile coming straight toward the aircraft. A a radar seeker has a thin nosecone with a probably sensitive radar antenna underneath and an IR seeker would be blinded immediately. The only challenge is to get the power of the laser up high enough to destroy the seeker which seems within reach.

  • Steve N

    This whole idea is pure nonsense and a waste of resources. At this time, lasers are too inefficient. Technologically, we can build a powerful enough laser. It’s the power source that’s the problem. Not drone-scale friendly.

  • This is a step in the right direction. As always, baby boys will grow up someday to be Soldiers and Generals. But first they must crawl before they can walk. Remember, we are still shooting metal projectiles from hollow metal tubes with gunpowder as our main defensive weapon. That is stone-age. And stone age is where we Americans will be if we don’t get higher tech before the Chinese. Teach science and creative engineering. You want your children harvesting rice in an Alabama swamp and living in a hut with a dirt floor? Science and technology is the new weapon. Lasers and computers in Space are the new artillery. Ignorance is the “Achilles Heel!”

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