Friday, September 25, 2015

Lasers could be mounted on aircraft by 2020

Lasers could be mounted on aircraft by 2020: While the Navy is already testing a ship-based laser in the Persian Gulf, Air Force leaders are looking to mount the weapons on AC-130 gunships and, eventually, on fighters like the F-22 and F-35.

Speaking Sept. 15 at the annual Air Force Association Air and Space Conference, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the leader of Air Combat Command, said he expects the service will begin mounting directed energy weapons onto aircraft within the next few years.

“Everybody thinks you have a tendency to talk about high-powered microwaves and lasers and it’s kind of science fiction,” Carlisle said. “But this is a reality. … I believe that we will have a directed energy capability in a pod that can be mounted on a fighter aircraft very soon as well.”

Carlisle said the technology will “change the game.”

“Imagine your ability to defeat an enemy surface-to-air capability with a directed energy weapon so you can penetrate an anti-access aerial denial environment,” he said, adding that the U.S. could develop the systems to protect its own airspace as well.

Experts said they expect lasers to be mounted on fighters starting sometime between 2020 and 2025. But smaller craft could carry them sooner. Defense contractor General Atomics announced earlier this year that its laser system had successfully completed testing, and could be mounted on the company’s MQ-1 Predator drones by 2018.