SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin is developing a laser weapon turret for aircraft that will allow the weapon to be fired in any direction.
The prototype turret has been commissioned by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
"The laws of physics say that a laser only can engage targets in front of an aircraft that is travelling close to the speed of sound -- unless atmospheric turbulence can be counter-acted," the company said. "That's exactly what Lockheed Martin has done."
The company's Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control, or ABC, turret has a 360-degree field of regard for laser weapons on an aircraft flying near the speed of sound -- about 768 miles per hour depending on air temperature.
Tests on the turret -- 60 in total -- last year and this year have been conducted using a business jet as a test bed. In the tests a low-power laser was fired through the turret's optical window to measure and verify successful performance in all directions.
Lockheed Martin said its ABC uses aerodynamic and flow-control technology to minimize the impacts of turbulence on a laser beam. A system of deformable mirrors enables the beam to get through the atmosphere to the target.
"This advanced turret design will enable tactical aircraft to have the same laser weapon system advantages as ground vehicles and ships," said Doug Graham, vice president of missile systems and advanced programs, Strategic and Missile Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
"This is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems."
Test results will be used by DARPA and the AFRL to determine the requirements of future aircraft laser weapon systems.