Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) recently successfully engaged and shot down multiple fixed- and rotary-wing drones, the company announced on 7 November.

Demonstrating ATHENA for the US Air Force (USAF) on a range at Fort Sill, OK, the system was operated in a fully-netted engagement environment, with a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor. The radar track was provided to airmen who operated ATHENA via cues from the C2 system, then ATHENA's beam director slewed, acquired, tracked and defeated the drone with a high-energy laser.

Validating this type of full kill-chain performance has been a priority for the USAF and other branches of the Department of Defense (DoD) and it remains a requirement for laser weapons to be effective against UAS on the battlefield.

"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," explained Sarah Reeves, Vice President of Missile Defense Programs for Lockheed Martin.

ATHENA was developed to integrate seamlessly and provide a cost-effective, complementary anti-drone capability with the network of systems the armed forces are already using. It was operated by USAF personnel during this demonstration and it was able to destroy multiple drones in engagements, representative of what is being demanded of US forces today.

The ATHENA high-energy laser system is transportable, which enables the USAF to emplace it anywhere required, to defend bases and high-value assets. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

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