The first venture of DARPA with laser-equipped fighter aircraft was the Airborne Laser Test-bed, a Boeing 747, it possessed a humongous chemically-pumped megawatt laser turret in this nose tip. The concept was marvelous but from practical point of view, it never worked. Many acclaimed it as nothing more than just a scrap. That doesn’t mean that the idea was senseless and ridiculous, DARPA took the challenge this year to make laser turret combat aircraft a reality. The organization is working on two different prototypes at the moment the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), and Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC).
Consider HELLADS as an attack mode weapon which features a 150-kilowatt system that’s “ten times smaller and lighter” than current systems, suitable for use both on the ground and in the air in an air-to-ground attack role. The objective of DARPA is to develop a laser turret that weighs less than five kilos per kilowatt and consumes a very meager space in an aircraft i.e. around three cubic meters.
While the other system known as ABC is planned for defensive mode i.e. when it is required to protect the aircraft from incoming missiles. The ABC system is very smaller laser turret as compared to other defensive systems attached to an aircraft, the laser turret can shoot down the incoming missiles. The only problem is that incoming missiles hit the aircrafts from behind and it would be too difficult for ABC system to overcome the turbulence caused by the aircraft’s engines without losing all of its beam energy and protect the aircraft. This is where the adaptive optics and beam control comes in, and here’s a terrible illustration from DARPA showing how the concept would work.