Lockheed’s HELIOS laser weapon system brings triple threat

Lockheed Martin has received $150m from the US Navy to develop HELIOS, a laser weapon system that combines three distinct capabilities.


Artist’s impression of HELIOS (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

As the name suggests, the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) is first and foremost a high-energy weapon. According to Lockheed, its fibre laser is designed to counter unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and small boats.

In addition to high-energy capability, the system will also feature an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) component via integrated sensors. Data gathered from HELIOS will be available through the Aegis Combat System, the longstanding weapons system used by navies around the world, and which Lockheed now produces.

Lastly, the integrated optical-dazzler will provide a defence capability against opposition UAS, blinding enemy drones and their ISR functions.   

“The HELIOS program is the first of its kind, and brings together laser weapon, long-range ISR and counter-UAS capabilities, dramatically increasing the situational awareness and layered defence options available to the US Navy,” said Lockheed’s  Michele Evans, vice president and general manager of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors.

“This is a true system of capabilities, and we’re honoured the navy trusted Lockheed Martin to be a part of fielding these robust systems to the fleet.”

As part of the deal with the navy, Lockheed will produce two HELIOS units by 2020. One laser weapon system will be deployed onboard an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, while the other will be used for land testing at the White Sands Missile Range. The initial $150m contract comes with additional options worth up to $942.8m.

“Lockheed Martin’s spectral beam combined fibre lasers bring flexibility and adaptability to defensive and offensive missions,” said Dr Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin and the principal investigator on the company’s ALADIN programme. “Our design is scalable, and we can optimise it to meet requirements for future increments.”