US scraps airborne directed-energy weapon program – media — RT World News

As America braces for potential war with China, laser-armed warplanes for use against militants appear useless, War Zone says

The US Air Force has suspended its attempts to place a 60-kilowatt class laser weapon on an AC-130J close air support aircraft, The War Zone said Tuesday.

Military media has received confirmation that the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) program has been canceled directly by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The decision was linked to re-equipping the Pentagon's arsenals to face potential conflicts with peer competitors, such as China.

The Lockheed AC-130 is a version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which the United States has used for more than five decades in ground attack operations. The current version of the AC-130J Ghostrider was introduced in 2015. AHEL was supposed to add a directed energy weapon to the aircraft's available toolkit.

The war zone argued that AHEL was ruled out after years of delays because the Pentagon was preparing for it “High-end” War, rather than counterinsurgency operations. The laser system has been promoted as an effective way to deal with militants in an environment where there is no challenge to American air superiority.

The same logic applies to the potential removal of 105mm howitzers from the AC-130J fleet, which was mentioned in the Pentagon's recent budget request, the report said. She added that as of last November, only 17 out of 30 aircraft had received this upgrade.

The Department of Defense's $849.8 billion request for fiscal year 2025 was published last week. It did not include any new funding for AHEL, indicating its imminent termination, according to The War Zone website.

Lockheed was awarded the AHEL integration contract with the AC-130J in 2019 and was initially expected to begin flight testing of the weapon in fiscal year 2021. That year, the defense giant described the system's successful factory acceptance test as “A tremendous achievement.”

“After completing a large, high-energy operation from start to finish in an outdoor ground test, the AHEL solid-state laser system faced technical challenges.” AFSOC told the website in a statement. “These challenges have delayed integration [the] The AC-130J Block 20 aircraft was designated after the available integration and flight test window had passed.

AFSOC added that the program was “Refocusing on ground testing to improve in-situ operations and reliability for successful delivery for use by other agencies.” Saying that any further questions should be directed to the US Special Operations Command.

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