SOFIC NEWS: Goal to Fire Laser Weapon from Special Ops Gunship Still Alive

By Stew Magnuson

Air Force photo

TAMPA, Florida — Seven years after announcing its intention to fire a high-energy laser weapon from one of its Ghostrider gunships, Special Operations Command executives said work is still ongoing.

Experiments are still in the ground phase, Rich Rodriguez, technical director at SOCOM’s program executive office-fixed wing, said May 18 at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, organized by the National Defense Industrial Association.

“We’re actually doing some integration at the subsystem level. We’re still doing ground testing and haven’t put it on a platform yet,” Rodriguez said. A ground test should happen in a “couple months,” he added.

SOCOM’s Program Executive Officer for Fixed Wing Air Force Col. Ken Keubler said. “We’re continuing to deliver ground tests this year, and if we’re successful we will put that on a platform as soon as possible.”

Keubler’s predecessor at PEO Fixed Wing, Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, said at the 2020 Virtual SOFIC that the program was on schedule to test the capability from an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship by 2022. SOCOM at the time had been working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren on studies and ground tests for a 60 kilowatt weapon.

Air Force Special Operations Command Commander Lt. Gen. Bradly Heitholt first proposed the experiment in 2015.

The U.S. military has been looking into laser weapons for some seven decades, and some of that work is finally coming to fruition with the Navy’s High Energy Laser and Optical-dazzler and Surveillance program moving forward with systems being integrated on destroyers.

The Army also continues to experiment with lasers mounted on ground vehicles that are powerful enough to destroy helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

As for lasers aboard aircraft, the Airborne Laser program — a Missile Defense Agency program — was canceled in 2012 due to high costs and technical problems.


Topics: Special Operations

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