One of the most feared planes on the modern battlefield is the U.S. Air Force's AC-130H Spectre gunship. The service has made major upgrades to the gunship, including a new offensive laser weapon system.
Lockheed Martin published a press release last week outlining how the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) "is ready for fielding today."
"Completion of this milestone is a tremendous accomplishment for our customer," said Rick Cordaro, vice president, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions. "These mission success milestones are a testament of our partnership with the U.S. Air Force in rapidly achieving important advances in laser weapon system development. Our technology is ready for fielding today."
The gunship, nicknamed "Hell in the Sky," packs a serious punch with three side-firing weapons, including a 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon, and a 105mm howitzer. The fourth will be the AHEL, a chemical energy weapon, unleashing concentrated pulses of light to transfer energy to the target, quickly heating it and damaging it.
Lockheed went on to say the "AHEL subsystem for integration with other systems in preparation for ground testing and ultimately flight testing aboard the AC-130J aircraft." There was no mention of when the laser weapon system would conduct air tests.
The 60-kilowatt laser weapon doesn't have enough energy to punch a hole through a main battle tank or blow an enemy soldier to pieces, but rather it can melt ground-based satellite antennas and optical sensors.
There's also a push by the Pentagon to develop and field laser weapons that are a "million times stronger" than anything out in the field today.