Lockheed-Martin Delivers Bonkers High Energy Laser for Testing on the AC-130J

The AC-130 aerial gunship is already one of the most recognizable modern planes ever to take to the skies in battle. The only thing that could possibly upgrade its cool factor any further would be literally fitting it with laser beams. As it happens, that is what Lockheed-Martin has just accomplished.
AC-130J Laser 6 photos
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The American aerospace giant announced yesterday that it successfully tested a new Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) in preparation for ground testing and ultimately fitting to one of the U.S. military’s favorite warplanes.

It isn’t the first time the United States military has pondered the idea of an airborne offensive laser weapon. The last notable attempt came in the form of the Boeing YAL-1 testbed, which was composed of a modified Boeing 747 airliner fitted with a chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL). That aircraft was retired in 2014.

The highly classified technology has potential for applications outside of long-duration close air support. Lockheed-Martin inked a deal with the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center worth $12 million over five years to develop the system for seafaring vessels. The laser has the potential to do anything from ground attack to close air support and even air to air defense against enemy aircraft and missiles.

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 delivery of the new AHEL system comes only two and a half years after Lockheed-Martin was awarded a lucrative contract with the Pentagon to develop next-gen laser technology back in January 2019. The company appears confident that it can have the new system ready on time and on budget.

press release

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