This week Lockheed Martin announced their company factory acceptance successfully completed testing for the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) subsystem and delivered it to the US Air Force for ground tests and ultimately flight tests on board the AC-130J aircraft.
“Completing this stage is a huge achievement for our client,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president of Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, in a statement. “These stages of the mission’s success are a testament to our partnership with the US Air Force to make significant progress in developing a laser weapon system. Our technology is ready for release today. “
Lockheed Martin also revealed that it has been commissioned to integrate, test and demonstrate the AC-130J aircraft in January 2019, and that the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dalgren Division, additionally awarded the company $ 12 million in perpetual delivery, a five-year contract for technical services, integration, testing, and demonstrations for the AHEL system in July 2021.
According to US Department of Defense, work will be carried out under this last contract in Virginia, Washington and Florida and is expected to be completed by July 2026.
It remains unclear when exactly the flight tests of the AC-130J, armed with the AHEL system, may begin, but before that the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) said it expected to begin in fiscal 2022. SOCOM also revealed that the power rating the AHEL will probably be in the 60 kilowatt range.
With such a laser, however, the military could secretly destroy targets ranging from vehicle engines to communications equipment without the enemy even knowing it because of its silent nature. It should be noted that the AC-130J already has an extensive arsenal, including 105-mm howitzer and smaller 30-mm GAU-23 / A Bushmaster cannon.
As for AHEL, it seems that there are still some unknowns about how the system works, but we hope that more information will become available when it completes its testing.