This Company Is Building a Death Ray

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted August 8, 2023

When we talk about the future of warfare, a lot of people think of drones or hypersonic weapons. 

That’s reasonable, but one facet of future war that often goes overlooked is laser weapons. 

The U.S. military first began experimenting with lasers in the 1960s.

However, after a series of tests, some of them brutal, it was determined that laser weapons had limited use in combat. 

In fact, in 1995, the Geneva Conventions were updated to ban their use as a means of blinding enemy combatants. 

But with the advent of drone warfare, they’re making a comeback. 

Directed-energy weapons can scramble a drone's circuits, disorient them, or burn them out completely in just a fraction of a second.

Laser Drone Defense

They have other key advantages as well.

Lasers don’t run out of ammunition, making them more reliable and cost-efficient than multimillion-dollar missiles. 

They can be swept around broadly to disable swarms.

And they can act as both a targeting mechanism and a weapon, which reduces the sensor-to-shooter timeline. 

That is, a laser beam can reach a target almost instantly, eliminating the need to calculate an intercept course. And because it's not kinetic, there’s no explosion, less debris, and, therefore, less collateral damage.

So after decades of neglect, the Pentagon is now spending $1 billion a year to develop directed-energy weapons.

That’s up from $235 million in FY 2020, and it’s opened the door to a broad range of laser weapons projecs throughout all the branches of the military.

Those programs range in scope, size, and purpose, though most are relatively small, as they need to be easily transported or adapted to fit everything from ATVs to fighter jets.

However, last week Lockheed Martin announced a new plan to build the world’s largest known laser weapon. 

Basically, the company aims to amplify an already existing 300 kW laser cannon to 500 kW. 

The 300 kW version was successfully tested last year, but a new, 500 kW version would be a big step forward.  

Analysts say that a megawatt of energy is roughly the amount of power a laser weapon would need to shoot down a large plane, as opposed to a small drone. So this weapon would be halfway there.

Essentially, it’d be something more akin to a death ray than a drone disabler.

Obviously, this program is shrouded in secrecy, but we do know the Army has agreed to pay $221 million for its development and delivery. 

In its current form, even the 300 kW version is fairly large, and the 500 kW upgrade will undoubtedly be bigger. So the weapon will primarily be used to protect permanent and semi-permanent structures from missiles, mortars, and drones.

However, the long-term goal is to come away with a weapon that is both powerful and adaptable to aircraft and ships.

Again, such weapons already exist, but they don’t pack nearly as much punch. 

For example, the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which was deployed on the USS Ponce in 2014, initially tested between 15–50 kW.  

Ponce Laser Cannon

And even newer laser weapons deployed on the Navy’s littoral combat ship and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer have generated 60–100 kW. 

But again, that’s just a fraction of the energy Lockheed aims to produce with its new endeavor. 

And it only makes sense that Lockheed is raising the bar, since it’s been producing laser weapons for the military for more than a decade now quiet as it’s kept. 

RTX, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman are in the mix too. 

However, there are other ways to play it. 

For instance, the latest recommendation for my Secret Stock Files investment service was a company that manufactures fiber lasers, amplifiers, diodes, and other components for all of these defense behemoths.

I also found an edge computing company that powers many of the Pentagon’s most advanced weapons — including drones and AI.

You can find out more about all that here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of Wall Street's Proving Ground, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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