Lockheed Martin Delivers Airborne High Energy Laser To USAF For Flight Testing On AC-130J Gunship

Lockheed Martin Delivers Airborne High Energy Laser To USAF For Flight Testing On AC-130J Gunship

By Dario Leone
Oct 8 2021
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Lockheed Martin delivered the Airborne High Energy Laser subsystem for integration with other systems in preparation for ground testing and ultimately flight testing aboard the AC-130J gunship aircraft.

Lockheed Martin successfully completed factory acceptance testing for the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL), in preparation for US military ground and flight testing of the system.

“Completion of this milestone is a tremendous accomplishment for our customer,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, in a company news release. “These mission success milestones are a testament of our partnership with the US Air Force in rapidly achieving important advances in laser weapon system development. Our technology is ready for fielding today.”

Lockheed Martin delivered the AHEL subsystem for integration with other systems in preparation for ground testing and ultimately flight testing aboard the AC-130J gunship aircraft. In January 2019, Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for integration, test and demonstration on the AC-130J aircraft and is on a rapid schedule to continue testing this capability.

If successful, the technology could be a game-changer. The US Air Force (USAF) has long desired an airborne laser so that it can take out surface-to-air and air-to-air missile threats more cheaply than current intercept methods.

Actually, the US military already pondered the idea of an airborne offensive laser weapon with the Boeing YAL-1 testbed. Primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase, the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system was a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. The YAL-1 was ultimately scrapped in Sep. 2014 after all usable parts were removed.

In July 2021, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division awarded Lockheed Martin a $12 million cost-plus-fixed fee, indefinite-delivery, five-year contract award for technical services, integration, test, and demonstration for the AHEL system.

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Photo credit: Lockheed Martin


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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