Lockheed Martin has delivered the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) to the US Air Force (USAF), with the aim of mounting it on the AC-130J gunships.
The laser system will go through the system integration process followed by ground testing leading to flight testing aboard the aircraft.
Rick Cordaro, vice president of Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, called it a “tremendous accomplishment,” and added that “these mission success milestones are a testament of our partnership with the USAF in rapidly achieving important advances in laser weapon system development.” He said Lockheed’s technology is “ready for fielding today.”
Flight Test Likely By Next Year
The US defense giant had clinched a contract to develop, integrate, test, and demonstrate the laser weapon system in 2019. According to The National Interest, the AHEL is a small podded laser weapon likely to be “mated to the airframe’s side and serve alongside the other weapons” of the aircraft.
Lockheed didn’t provide the future timetable of the weapon integration process, however, The War Zone revealed that the flight testing of an AC-130J armed with the AHEL is expected to start in fiscal 2022, citing the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
60 Kilowatt of Power
The outlet, again citing SOCOM, stated that the system’s laser has a power of 60 kilowatt, pitting it in the same bracket as the High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS), another Lockheed Martin system to be deployed on US Navy vessels to counter drones and fast attack boats.
Meanwhile, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division awarded Lockheed Martin a $12 million, five-year contract in July for “technical services, integration, test, and demonstration for the AHEL system.”