May 26, 2015

US Air Force looking to integrate combat lasers in fighters starting 2022 and for combat lasers in AC-130J gunships

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is targeting demonstrating a 100+kw combat laser on a fighter by 2022. The airforce wants to integrate combat laser systems into future fighters in the 2030+.

Initially the combat lasers will be in external pod that attach to the fighter.

The General Atomics HELLADS laser, which will soon shift from a DARPA experiment to a DARPA-Air Force Research Lab joint venture. “That was a major investment on the part of DARPA,” Hardy said. “It’s the first time anybody’s shown you can make a 150-kW-class electric laser.



A typical modern fighter like the F-16 can carry at most six air-to-air missiles. Shoot six times, hit or miss, and it’s back to base to re-arm. By contrast, said Gunzinger, a laser-armed aircraft could just head back to the tanker. “Instead of landing to reload, air refueling would ‘reload’ [laser]-equipped aircraft in flight,” he said. They could keep fighting until the pilot couldn’t take it any more — or, if unmanned, for longer than any human could endure.

Special Operations Command wants a laser cannon on future AC-130s.

AC130J models could have lasers. The first two AC130J aircraft will not have the 105mm gun installed. That’ll have to be retrofitted later. The third AC10J AFSOC will simply pull the cannon off retiring AC130 aircraft and install them on the Js. The last seven J-models may carry a laser weapon according to Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold.

The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features. It contains an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics. The aircraft is capable of extremely accurate navigation due to the fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation systems and global positioning system.

The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging SOF fleet of 37 AC-130H/U/W gunships. AC-130 gunships have an extensive combat history dating to back to Vietnam where gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions.




The first AC-130J aircraft is scheduled to begin developmental test and evaluation in January 2014. The first squadron will be located at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., while other locations are to be determined. Initial operational capacity is expected in fiscal 2017 and the last delivery is scheduled for fiscal 2021.



SOURCES - Breaking Defense, Air force, FBO.gov

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