The Army’s Badass Laser Weapon Just Took A Major Step Forward

Screenshot via YouTube

The Army’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA, a nod to the Greek goddess of Wisdom) laser weapon underwent substantial prototype testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in August, and the results are pretty damn impressive based on new video of the weapon in action.

During testing, manufacturer Lockheed Martin flexed the ATHENA’s muscles — the weapon uses the company’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN), nestled in an advanced system of optics and sensors, to generate the heat energy to burn through drones — to blast the bejesus out of five Outlaw drones, a feat it was happy to show off in highlight reel published on Sept. 20.

Once ATHENA takes aim at the Outlaw drones’ back rudders, they burst into flame, spiral into a tailspin, and freefall to the ground. Though the laser’s “beam” is all but invisible to the naked eye, the drone’s mid-air disintegration is very, very real — and very, very awesome.

“The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure,” Lockheed Martin said in press release. “Lockheed Martin and the Army will conduct post mission reviews, and data collected will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems.”

This is just the Army’s latest step forward with regards to directed energy weapons. In April, the branch unveiled a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) prototype specially equipped with Mobile High Energy Laser (MEHEL) system designed to counter ISIS suicide drones. Andd in June, an AH-64 Apache was fitted with a laser developed by Raytheon to experiment with taking out unmanned aerial vehicles, blasting drones out of the sky from 1.4 km away.

But knocking drones out of the sky is just one of the uses that Lockheed envisions for its new laser technology. In the near future, the defense giant hopes to expand the utility of its laser weapons systems to aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships.

“Our technology today is ready to defend against small rockets, artillery shells and mortars, small unmanned aerial vehicles, small attack boats and lightweight ground vehicles that are approximately a mile away,” the company said. “As fiber laser power levels increase, our systems will be able to disable larger threats and do so across greater distances.”

The military is also looking at other applications for laser technology beyond downing pesky UAVs. Air Force Special Operations Command is exploring  the possibility of equipping AC-130J Ghostrider gunship with lasers that can disrupt or destroy communications and electrical systems, as well as enemy infrastructure. And the Navy’s USS Ponce has been using  the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System for defensive purposes against enemy watercraft 2014.

All of this is great, but we hope that, one day, the Pentagon takes the final step towards world domination: sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor July 18, 2016, for his actions while serving as a Flight Commander assigned to the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then-Maj. Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967. (U.S. Army/Spc. Tammy Nooner)

by Martin Slagter, The Ann Arbor News, Mich.

YPSILANTI, MI - When a brigade of U.S. troops was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army in the Song Tra Cau riverbed on the morning of May 15, 1967, Lt. Charles Kettles volunteered to lead the rescue, and he refused, again and again, to back down when faced with a barrage of gunfire.

His aircraft badly damaged, left spilling fuel, and his gunner was severely injured during the treacherous operation.

But he helicoptered in and out of the battlefield four times, saving the lives of 44 soldiers in a death-defying emergency operation that would become a legendary tale of bravery in the Vietnam War.

Nearly 50 years later, Kettles received the Medal of Honor on July 18, 2016.

Read More Show Less
The M160 Robotic Mine Flail at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Photo: Maj. Dan Marchik/U.S. Army

The battlefield of the future could feature robot medics delivering life-saving care to casualties in the line of fire. At least, that's what the Army is aiming for — and it's willing to pay millions for help doing it.

Read More Show Less
A Chinese tank rolls at the training ground "Tsugol", about 250 kilometers (156 miles ) south-east of the city of Chita during the military exercises Vostok 2018 in Eastern Siberia, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 (Associated Press/Sergei Grits)

China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.

Read More Show Less
(The 621st Contingency Response Wing/Flickr)

The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard called the ongoing partial government shutdown "unacceptable" following reports that some Coast Guardsmen are relying on donations from food pantries while their regular paychecks remain on hold.

"We're five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay," Adm. Karl Schultz said in a video message to service members. "You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden."

Read More Show Less