Lockheed Martin published a video today of its new Area Defense Anti-Munitions system, codenamed ADAM. ADAM is a bad-boy 10-kilowatt laser that is trailer-mounted, tracks targets up to 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) away, and destroys targets up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away with its HEL beam.
Yes, that’s the actual name, short for “high-energy laser.” Here’s the demonstration video on a Iranian-style Quassam rocket:
Lockheed Martin says ADAM is designed to provide short-range defense of high-value targets from improvised rocket and “unmanned aerial system” threats. It’s self-contained, towed into place by a tractor-trailer, and can destroy missiles in seconds.
“High-energy lasers complement kinetic energy systems and have unique attributes, including very low cost per engagement, a virtually unlimited ‘magazine,’ and minimal collateral damage,” Doug Graham, Lockheed Martin’s VP of advanced programs, said in a statement.
In other words, it’s cheaper than antimissile missile systems like the Patriot, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and has more capacity for protection than something like the Navy’s high-speed Phalanx guns, which can fire depleted uranium or tungsten rounds at incredible speeds to down enemy rockets or other threats.
One downside of a laser-based system, however, as you can see in the video: They’re seldom as instant as Star Wars would make you think.
To deliver adequate heat to a target missile to make it explode, ADAM needs to lock on to the missile for a second or more. Which means that ADAM needs sophisticated guidance hardware and software to stay on-target while the missile continues accelerating.
All of which seems to work, at least on test flights. ADAM destroyed eight small-caliber rocket targets in testing so far this year and another 11 in tests last year.