Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Official: Marine Corps Could Equip F-35B with Laser Weapon

The Marine Corps is working toward the day when it could equip an F-35B joint strike fighter with a directed energy weapon, a top service official said Aug. 30.
Putting a laser on board an F-35 is “absolutely,” something the Marine Corps would be interested in, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant of combat development and integration.

To get to that point, the service would start by putting the system on a KC-130, which would be a better fit
 because of current size, weight and power constraints, he said during a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C.

“As soon as we could miniaturize them, we would put them on F-35s, Cobra … any of those kind of attack aircraft,” he said. Walsh said a laser could also be installed on an MV-22 Osprey.

So far, it has been a struggle reducing the size of directed energy weapons, he said. In order to produce enough power to be effective against a threat, systems are often large, he said.

Yet laser weapons technology is something that will be increasingly critical for the service going forward, Walsh said.

“It’s very important. It’s where we want to go,” he said. Lasers will lighten the Corps' loads by reducing the amount of energy, powder and kinetic ordnance it must carry into the field, he said.

The service is currently working alongside the Office of Naval Research on the ground-based air defense directed energy on-the-move program, he said. The goal of that effort is to mount a high-energy laser on a vehicle.

“The ‘on-the-move’ piece is trying to get it onto a vehicle that we can maneuver with," 

he said. ONR has demonstrated a 10-kilowatt laser and the intent is to move to a 30-kilowatt laser, he added. The system could be used against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.