SOCOM to Demo High-Energy Laser on AC-130J in 2022

An AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft from the 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla., flies maneuvers at Papa Range, Estonia, in support of exercise Trojan Footprint on June 6, 2018. Air National Guard photo by SMSgt. John Rohrer.

US Special Operations Command is planning an operational flight demonstration of a high-energy laser on an AC-130J at the end of Fiscal 2022, a senior SOCOM official told Air Force Magazine this week.

Air Force Special Operations Command chief Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said in February he was “cautiously optimistic” the Air Force would get the funding to go ahead with plans to put lasers on gunships. Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer of SOCOM fixed wing aircraft, said in an emailed statement the command is in the process of purchasing subsystems.

“In addition to subsystem component procurement, assembly, and ground test, development of structure to isolate aircraft vibrations and flight test of an optical window on AC-130J will be accomplished,” she said.

The planned demonstration, she added, is aimed at informing future requirements—SOCOM’s use of a particular airframe for this demonstration “does not mean that will be the final answer for full-up operations,” she added.