The U.S. Air Force is about to receive the first major component for a prototype of a defensive tactical laser weapon designed to be carried externally on its combat jets. Boeing recently finished work on the pod assembly for this directed energy weapon, inside which the laser and beam control systems will be installed later this year.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announced today that it would take delivery of this pod later this month as part of its Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program, or SHiELD, which has been ongoing since at least 2013. Lockheed Martin is under contract to develop the actual solid-state laser, while Northrop Grumman is supplying the beam control system. AFRL hopes to get those components by July, after which all three components will be combined to form the complete system.