Dynamite With a Laser Beam: Lockheed Unveils Weapon of the Future

Lockheed Martin tested ATHENA on a truck. The company says the system is capable of disabling vehicles within a mile. Lockheed Martin

During a recent field test, the defense and aerospace company Lockheed Martin's new laser weapon system was able to burn through the engine of a truck from more than a mile away, disabling it in a matter of seconds.

With one eye on budget and one eye toward the future, Lockheed Martin has been testing out the new system, which it calls ATHENA (for Advanced Test High Energy Asset), as a nonlethal way of protecting military and infrastructure.

To put the cost effectiveness of the laser into perspective, the web magazine Engadget reported back in December that firing a surface-to-air missile cost around $400,000 a pop, whereas the Navy's experimental laser costs 59 cents a shot.

Though the truck was placed up on props during the test, its engine was on and the car was put into drive.

ATHENA creates a 30-kilowatt laser beam, which Lockheed Martin describes as having the "highest power ever documented by a laser weapon of its type." An everyday pointer laser is around 1 milliwatt. ATHENA is about 30 million times more.

"This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks." said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin's chief technology officer.

Correction: This article originally incorrectly stated that 30 kilowatts is 3 million times more than 1 milliwat. Thirty kilowatts is 30 million times more than 1 milliwat.