Lockheed Martin Demonstrate ATHENA System
On the 7th of November Lockheed Martin successfully demonstrated its new ATHENA system in countering multiple fixed wing and rotary drones (UAVs). ATHENA stands for Advanced Test High Energy Asset. The system operates a high-energy laser which engages tracked targets. The primary success here appears to be its ability to engage multiple targets in quick succession, likely mimicking potential swarm conflicts.
The system is being developed primarily for the US Air Force, though would likely be acquired both by other branches (such as the Navy) and allies as the technology diffuses abroad. Vice President of Missile Defence Programs at Lockheed commented: "We've watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it's an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin's critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter," Countering UAV attacks will likely be an important defensive feature for future generation aircraft as more and more states seek to procure this offensive capability. In particular, UAVs are increasingly being planned to deploy alongside fixed wing aircraft on operations. Countering this is therefore a necessary innovation, and it seems the ATHENA system might offer the US this capability soon.
Cover Photo Courtesy of LockheedMartin.com
At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.