Special ops gun ships to get laser weapons
National Defense Magazine:
Air Force Special Operations Command expects to equip a directed energy weapon on its new AC-130J Ghostrider gunship by 2020, said its commander.Compared to other weapons systems this would be relatively inexpensive and would actually cost less to operate than most smart bombs. I put it up there with the Navy's rail gun program as an advanced way to get beyond using explosive ordinance.
Officials said the combat aircraft — which will be used for close-air support and air interdiction — is an ideal platform for a laser.
“Most of the senior leadership in the Air Force would argue that the logical step to the advancement of high-energy lasers in the battlefield is to use this AC-130 platform” and then move on to a fighter jet, said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, commander of AFSOC. “It makes too much sense. Use me as a way to get where you finally want to go.”
The AC-130J — a modified C-130 Hercules transport aircraft built by Lockheed Martin — has more size, weight and power than a fighter, making it an appropriate platform to use initially, he told National Defense.
AFSOC has been working with industry, Defense Department laboratories and think tanks to mature lasers. “We believe technology is ripe to move this forward,” he said.
Heithold described lasers as a leap-ahead technology over precision strike munitions. The development of such systems goes hand in hand with the Defense Department’s third offset strategy, which aims to maintain the United States’ technological edge, he said.