Using lasers for tracking objects through the sky has been possible for years, but there's never been anything like Lockheed's new laser defense system successfully tested last week.
It's not that using high-powered lasers to drop incoming missiles is anything new, and was achieved by Boeing with a nine-year Air Force project that was canceled in 2011. That monster laser was packed into a 747 and designed to head off ballistic missiles fired at the U.S. from very far away. Raytheon then tested their laser defense on a drone for the Navy in 2010, but now Lockheed's distilled the process down for battlefield troops.
Here's how it works: Imagine being shacked up with a handful of others at a Forward Operating Base, way, way into enemy territory beyond any immediate help, behind some makeshift stone walls and plywood. Some are sleeping, while others stand watch using night vision to leach signs of danger from dark. When the attack comes it starts with shoulder launched rockets — but rather than just seeing the flash and yelling for cover, the troops are protected by Area Defense Anti-Munitions.
At Marines Forward operating Base Reinforcement and the ADAM unit (Lockheed Martin)
Called ADAM, the small white trailer with the big laser takes its cue from radar blanketing the area three miles out. The radar has already kicked the laser awake when the guys on watch saw the flash. By the time they're diving for cover and warning their buddies, the ADAM has locked onto the rocket and is burning it out of the sky from over a mile away.
After keeping everyone from getting blown up, ADAM would then afford troops the time to coordinate their counter-attack where even more lives would be saved.
That's the idea anyway, though there would be countless other uses for the technology. The video below released by Lockheed yesterday shows the ADAM making short work of a tethered rocket from about a mile away.