A top Air Force scientist said a laser to replace the type of system used on the airborne laser testbed aircraft may not be too far away. “It’s getting very close,” said Howard Schlossberg, program manager for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, in a teleconference with reporters. The ALTB features a chemical oxygen-iodine laser, known as COIL, that requires some “nasty chemicals” to fire, he noted. It’s also quite heavy. The hope, Schlossberg said, is to replace that type of system with a solid-state laser that is lighter and more efficient. Industry officials currently are trying to figure out how to package a 100-kilowatt solid-state system onto aircraft, he said. That’s not an easy task, but one that should be “eminently doable,” he noted during Tuesday’s discussion. (For background on ALTB, see What’s Next for the Airborne Laser from the April issue of Air Force Magazine.)
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.