US Marines certain about putting combat lasers on KC-130 gunship and F-35B jet with development on track for 2021 airborne tests

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said Tuesday that he could “absolutely” see putting a laser on the service’s F-35B variant in the future…. “Because of the size and weight requirements for a laser, we’d probably start off with a KC-130,” Walsh said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington. “As soon as we could miniaturize it, we’d put them on F-35s, Cobras [attack helicopters], any of those attack aircraft.”

This was reported by the Washington Examiner and Popular Science.

In May, 2016 The US Air Force indicated they hada plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts.

Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel

France has funded combat lasers on wing mounted pods The F35 would prefer internal combat lasers as wing pods would reduce the stealthiness of the jet.

The US 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 and larger early lasers placed into the heavy and larger C-130 gunships.

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.

The AFRL’s directed energy directorate spends about a third of its roughly $150 million annual budget on laser technology. There is also combat laser research and develoment with the US Navy, DARPA, the US Army and the marines.

In 2018, the Marine Corps expects to deploy F-35Bs on the amphibious assault ship Essex. The Essex is expected to head to U.S. Central Command, which is the division of the military that oversees fighting in the Middle East.

USS Essex (LHD-2) is a United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship built at what is now Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on 17 October 1992

Displacement: 40,650 tons (full combat load)
Length: 844 ft (257 m)
Beam: 106 ft (32 m)
Draft: 28 ft (8.5 m) (full load)
Propulsion: Geared steam turbines
Speed: exceeds 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Boats and landing craft carried: 3 LCACs or 2 LCUs
Troops: 1,800

It can carry up to 36 airplanes

SOURCES- Marine Corps times, Breaking Defense, Washington Examiner, Popular Science, Wikipedia, US Air Force, US Air Force Research Lab, Lockheed Martin