If approved for the budget, Air Force Special Operations Command anticipates the service could begin the modifications as early as Fiscal 2020 on an AC-130W currently used backup aircraft inventory at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, an AFSOC spokesman told FlightGlobal. Millions of dollars have already been set aside for the ground and flight testing, AFSOC chief Lt Gen Brad Webb says.
AFSOC will determine the laser’s mounting location during testing, Webb says. The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and AFSOC determined earlier this year that a left-side mounted laser would prove more cost effective than a belly mounted weapon. Former AFSOC chief Lt Gen Heithold has also mentioned that size, weight and power restraints favor fitting the laser into an existing space rather than adding the capability with the conventional guns. Initially, AFSOC will replace the AC-130W’s 30mm gun with a laser, Webb says.