Lockheed Martin plans to arm a fighter plane with a laser weapon pod in about five years. The system, called the "Tactical Airborne Laser Weapon System", is intended to shoot down and destroy tactical missiles such as as air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles.
Mark Stephen, who is in charge of missile development for Lockheed Martin, told the Flight Global website that "We're spending a lot of time to get the beam director right" and that "we’re investing over $20 million in our Orlando-based optical components center" to build the system. The company announced that a powerful fiber laser is in development for the US Air Force Laboratories in order to build a prototype. The goal had been to install a laser weapon on a fighter plane by 2021, but there has been a delay until 2023 due to technical problems.
The laser weapon will be installed on the fighter plane like a regular pod that contains electronic equipment. Knowledge accumulated from development of laser energy projects for the Army and the Navy are being used in the development stages. Those projects were intended to shoot down drones and flying munitions. For that reason, special optic sensors are being developed to enable the system to shoot down incoming missiles faster.
Lockheed Martin did not reveal the range or the rate of fire of the airborne laser weapon, claiming that those statistics depend on the type of targets being attacked.