Just day after we highlighted "Silent Hunter" - China's new vehicle-slicing laser gun - it appears the US military is stepping up the propaganda on its own 'hi-tech weaponry'. Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install and test combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.
The Air Force and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency spent billions of dollars putting a laser on the nose of the 747 jetliner that would be used to shoot down ballistic missiles. The project was canceled in 2012. Webb acknowledged that the project, which didn’t field an operational aircraft, left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
In 2014, the Navy deployed a laser on an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf. The captain of the ship was given permission to use the laser as a defensive weapon.
But now, as DefenseOne.com reports, a laser-armed C-130 project is U.S. Special Operations Command’s top unfunded priority, according to Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” Webb said of the project Thursday at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference. “There are a lot of vendors that are really contributing to and continue to push that technology along.”
The plan is to install a relatively low-kilowatt laser, do a “proof of concept and go from there,” Webb said, increasing power laser weapon after it’s proven accurate and effective in testing. The command has money “to do the first steps” of the project.
After a year of talking with “every industry partner who’s ever even touched a laser…I know the technology has matured now, I believe we can put a high energy laser — offensive and defensive — on an AC-130 by the close of this decade.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean turning the entire future AC-130J fleet into laser planes, but having “at least four or five of our airplanes modified in this fashion will help.”
NextBigFuture.com notes that The Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35. 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.