The 54-year old AC-130 gunships are about to get a serious upgrade like something straight out of a futuristic film. The Air Force plane is getting a laser beam.
Lockheed Martin is crafting a laser system for Air Force testing. It will be put on the AC-130J Ghostrider, the newest version of the AC-130.
The new laser or the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) disables enemy cars, communication systems, power equipment, and more.
“Without the slightest bang, whoosh, thump, explosion, or even aircraft engine hum, four key targets are permanently disabled. The enemy has no communications, no escape vehicle, no electrical power, and no retaliatory intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability. Minutes later, the team emerges from the compound, terrorist mastermind in hand. A successful raid.”Lt. Gen. Marshall "Brad" Webb
If testing is successful, the laser will be added to the Ghostrider's already beefy arsenal. The ship is stocked with 30mm and 105mm cannons and can hold the AGM-176 Griffin and the 250-pound GBU-39 bomb.
The plane is also equipped with a Precision Strike Package with sensors and a communications package. According to the Air Force, equipment helps operators see the battlefield more clearly and accurately drop ordinance.
“The lethality has increased exponentially. The engines are more powerful, the engines are more efficient, and it has a more accurate weapons system and precision-guided munitions.”Maj, Ryan Whitehead
But First, Testing
So far, the Ghostriders mission is staying the same but could change in the future. The laser will give the AC-130 a stealthy way to get rid of enemy weapons dumps, according to Sandboxx.
Sandboxx surmised, "In other words, this weapon can cause problems for the enemy and even destroy targets without directly implicating U.S. forces. That can be extremely valuable in the Grey Zone military operations of the modern era."
The plane has to go through a series of tests before it is ready for official use. Lockheed plans to test at some point in 2022.