Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, head of AFSOC, told a crowd at NDIA's SO/LIC conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday that he thought the technology was mature enough to install a laser weapon onto the AC-130J gunship.
The Air Force has already decided it will mount a 105mm cannon onto the newest variant of the gunship after the Air Force chose to limit the W-model to smart bombs and the 30mm cannon. Heithold explained that the 105mm cannon was needed because it was more accurate and cheaper than firing the Small Diameter Bombs.
The Pentagon has continued to expand its research into direct energy weapons, especially the Navy. Top Navy officials have remain committed to incorporating lasers onto Navy warships.
The Air Force had invested in airborne lasers before former Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the program. The Air Force had considered a program that would use lasers to protect the U.S. from ballistic missiles.
This is the first time an Air Force official has discussed adding a laser weapon to the AC-130.