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BETHESDA, MARYLAND — The U.S. is finally taking a page from Star Wars and is now looking to equip its fighter planes with high-energy lasers.

CNBC reports that Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $26.3 million contract to design, develop, and build a high-energy laser weapon for the U.S. Air Force’s SHiELD program.

The company delivered a 60-kilowatt laser for U.S. Army ground vehicles early this year, and will produce a smaller system to test on tactical aircraft by 2021.

Airborne laser weapons can defend against threats from enemy missiles, boosting the self-defense capabilities of military jets.

The Lockheed Martin laser is one of three subsystems that make up the SHiELD program. A beam control system is being developed by Northrop Grumman, while a pod to power and cool the laser is being designed by Boeing.

China’s Defense Ministry said Thursday, Japanese military aircraft are increasingly engaging in dangerous intercepts of Chinese planes, putting the safety of Chinese fliers at risk and damaging bilateral relations.
Japan reported earlier this month that between April 1 and September 30, it has scrambled its warplanes 407 times. The scramblings were in reaction to increased Chinese military flights near Japanese airspace.