ORLANDO, Fla. --- Air Force Special Operations Command is “months to maybe a year out” from flight testing a directed energy weapon aboard an AC-130 gunship, its leader said March 3.
Feedback from initial tests of the capability at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, have allowed the command move forward with a proof of concept phase, said Lt. Gen. Marshall "Brad" Webb at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium.
The White Sands tests showed that a low kilowatt laser could be controlled and aimed. Next, "We will take the next step of upping the kilowattage and go from there,” he said.
Special Operation Command's program executive office fixed wing has been working to outfit an AC-130J Ghostrider with a laser. Its stated goal is to equip an aircraft with a directed energy weapon by the end of the decade. SOCOM officials have previously discussed the possibility of outfitting an AH-64 Apache helicopter with a laser weapon, and analysts have noted it could also potentially be mounted on an MH-60 Black Hawk.
The command continues to perform tests to see where it could place a laser weapon on the gunship, Webb said.
“There are multiple options that we got to play out,” he said. The possibility of placing the weapon in a gunport, or having it support the existing gunships, are options the service is exploring, he added.
“That’s what we want to get to: Where does it make sense? What mix of weapons could you go with or should it go with?” he said.
But the command remains short on funding, Webb said.
“We have funding to do the first steps. Over the course of what we want to do with the program, we’re still short money-wise, but I am confident … we’ll be able to get more funding,” he said, adding that should the command receive more funding in fiscal year 2018, it could possibly go toward directed energy investments. (end of excerpt)
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