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Video: High energy laser takes out rocket from 1.5 km


May 10, 2013

Lockheed Martin's ADAM laser system destroys a rocket mid-flight

Lockheed Martin's ADAM laser system destroys a rocket mid-flight

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Lockheed Martin has released a video of ADAM, its high energy laser (HEL) system, taking out a rocket from a range of 1.5 km (0.9 miles). Slowed down, the 300-fps video clearly shows the laser beam striking and tracking a point towards the front of the rocket, before destroying it mid-flight.

ADAM, which stands for Area Defense Anti-Munitions is a self-contained unit designed to nullify attacks from unmanned aerial vehicles, or improvised rocket attacks from the ground. The intention is that the system will be used to protect vulnerable assets such as military bases near the frontline, acquiring and tracking short-range targets from a distance of 5 km (3.1 miles), and destroying from a range of up to 2 km (1.2 miles).

In the test, which took place April 22, an ADAM prototype takes out a "Qassam-like" rocket. Qassam rockets are artillery munitions used by the military wing of Hamas in attacks against Israel.

Lockheed Martin's video of the prototype test can be seen below.

Source: Lockheed Martin, via Geek.com

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James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Sweet! I've been present for to watch close-up Phalanx CIWS live fire. I think the laser is awesome. The time on target for a kill seems a little long. I wonder how much energy is being placed on the target with this system and I also wonder how may rounds from an MLRS it would take to flood this laser system?


Wait till they start flying HEL's on drones.

Max Orbit

I can't help but feel this is a somewhat rigged demo. I might feel happier if this was an actual named weapon, rather than a weapon like rocket, and if the intercept hadn't been the easiest one possible, at a point in the flightpath when tracking is also super-easy, at a range of less than one mile.

Nice party trick, but as it stands, not really useful for anything.

John Routledge

I would bet that having a reflective coating on the missile or having it release vapor to absorb the heat would make this ineffective.

Michael Crumpton

I agree with Michaelc. I'm not at all convinced that lasers would work in a real-world battle. They take far too long to work and would be easy to defeat (as Michael has pointed out).


Send me that reflective coating, Michaelc, I can test it with a 1 watt 445nm laser

Bill Bennett

I'm not convinced that Lockheed Martin are in the business of throwing away millions of dollars. No one said this is a one-size-fits-all solution. No one said this is the final, deployable product. It is a great idea especially if you lived in a place like Israel where Hamas routinely fire rockets into populated areas. I make no political or moral observations apart from the ADAM stands to save lives when it can be deployed. The Israelis Iron Dome has proven very effective at surpressing rocket fire. This system would potentially save them a lot of money if it could improve on the Iron Dome's efficacy. Coating rockets in reflective coatings sounds great but would be extremely difficult to achieve in practice. It would also depend on the wavelength of the LASER used. They also have the ability to rapidly aquire and track a target and would be a lot harder to locate/detect compared to a RADAR system. I have no doubt that in due course this will end up in the arsenal of many countries.


Back in high school, right after hearing of the star wars anti missile defense concept I thought ofthe mirror coating thing too. ... A little Laslett I read that was the opinion of Soviet scientists too. It didn't take too much longer to realize why I as wrong,and that likely the article with the scientists was probably a sham too.

Even if you coated the outside of a rocket with a perfectly clean mirror, it won't work. That mirror will reflect 99%of the visible light, less in other frequencies. This is why they use high energy lasers,and in some cases highly tunable lasers as well. That surfaces wears off in less then a second as it's absorbing maybe a kilowatt of heat energy over about a square inch. even that 1% is still alot of energy, and reflective surfaces aren't generally that tough.


Just occurred to me after watching this video. It takes several seconds for the laser to cook the missile.

This is to do with the time it takes for the thermal energy from the laser to heat up the inside of the missile to a point of combustion.

Therefore the practical low cost approach is for a missile to move in such a manner that the hot spot is always moving, to allow sufficient time for its chassis to stay sufficiently cool until delivering its payload.

A simple approach is to induce spin, and deliberate unbalance the missile via simple flap in tail, that can be actuated as required upon detection of a heat source on its body.

The best approach is safety in numbers. No missile should fly alone. And should an ADAM be detected, a few should spiral towards it, given it is an easy source to track.

Put the fear of god in the LAZOR operator ! :)


@ Nairda even with only a moderate amount of high energy LASER radiation focused on the side of these objects, they are damaging the metal. These rockets travel at high velocities where any surface imperfections are going to be vastly pronounced by inducing vibrations, amplified even further by any asymmetries. The rough, damaged surface will heat up as a result of the immense air friction, weakening the missile and perhaps causing further deterioration of the exterior. Consequently I'm not convinced any missile rotation would prove an effective countermeasure if the missile sustains a short burst of continuous LASER damage. I may be wrong but again, I doubt Lockheed Martin would waste their money if they could easily defeated.


I think this would only be useful against old missiles which are already not a threat anymore. Modern missiles with their winglets and maneuverability can overcome it thanks to the long time that the laser needs to stay on the missile. A missile will only need a laser detector on board to make this weapon ineffective, as the missile can detect a laser and then change its trajectory, effectively begin dodging and maneuvering around its main pathway to lose the laser's focus.

Samer Helmy

Most artillery rockets already spin in flight, including the fin stabilized; it averages out the steers introduced from aerodynamic imperfections.


Concerning the remarks criticising the length of time necessary to destroy the target, this is only noticeable in the slow motion sequences; in the real-time video it is difficult or impossible to see the heat spot on the rocket and destruction appears practically instantaneous.


It of course would seem better to use a shorter extremely high peak power laser pulse so you wouldn't have to stay on the target so long but there's this thing called the "Lamb" effect. With a high peak-power pulse the leading edge of the pulse warms up the air changing the index of refraction and the rest of the pulse actually travels faster through air than the leading edge. The pulse therefore compresses in time and over some distance the power level reaches a point where it will actually ionize the air and absorb the remainder of the pulse energy resulting in a rather loud explosion.

Mr E

If only I could have one to use on the loud car steroes in neighborhood.


Reflective coatings won't work, but a secondary shell designed to radiate heat quickly and then be shed (as chaff to confuse targeting) would defeat this pretty easily. In other words, a missile can probably be designed to get past this easily... on the other hand, this makes the threat of surplus missiles put back into use much less. If you're cynical, you say this allows first world countries to surplus their old armaments without fear of their use in reprisal. If you're less cynical, then this is a good way for stable countries to protect themselves from leaders who have gotten lost in their own cold-war delusions.

@Mr E I hadn't thought of that. Fun!

Charles Bosse

@Slowburn is right - most ordnance has some level of spin. Pretty sure the big boys at LM who do this for a living know that too. It wouldn't make much of a difference anyway.

For all those stating how simple it would be to defeat this, think again. Ideas like target saturation, reflective coatings, sensors to detect laser attack and out-manoeuvre it, heat shields, etc only defend a specific threat and, even if successful, proves that the system works by doing two things: 1. Drive up to complexity of the system, meaning less payload available for warhead, range, etc and 2. Drive up the cost of each missile/attack. Either way, the system has achieved its purpose by reducing the liklihood of being on the receiving end. And that's before you consider the laser actually knocking missiles out of the sky.

Finally, in increased the burden on recon/int elements to identify laser sites so that the right weapon is sent to destroy the target. That's more resources not allocated away from shooting at you.

As an officer currently sitting where the air is regularly thick with metallic rain, I'd be more than happy to have a few of these sitting nearby.

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