Jeff Heggemeier of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) said technical challenges and COVID-19 pandemic-related complications has led the service to move the initial test of the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system aboard a fighter aircraft from 2021 to 2023, Defense News reported Tuesday.
“This is a really complex technology to try to integrate into that flight environment, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do with this program, is demonstrate that laser technology is mature enough to be able to integrate onto that airborne platform,” Heggemeier, SHiELD program manager at AFRL, told the publication in a June 10th interview. “But even things like COVID, and COVID shutting down the economy. That has impacts.”
Heggemeier said the Air Force should continue development work on the SHiELD program in order for it to assess the usefulness and maturity of capabilities. SHiELD is composed of laser being developed by Lockheed Martin, the pod encasing the weapons platform from Boeing and the beam control system from Northrop Grumman.
Heggemeier said the pod is under construction phase and the service plans to begin integration of the laser and beam control system in 2021.