Star Wars effects are jumping off the silver screen and toward US Air Force B-52s
US Air Force Research Laboratory officials have declared their plan to implement a program of record that would have weapons equipped with air fired lasers by the year 2023, with the first airborne tests scheduled to be conducted by 2021.
Ground testing of the High Energy Laser, referred to as HEL, have been conducted at White Sands Missile Range, N.M in the last two years. The US Air Force Directed Energy Directorate has been conducting the High Energy Laser in Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
In order for the laser weapon to incinerate air to air or air to ground missile attacks while in action, US Air Force sciences are looking to equip the B-52 with laser weapons capable of carrying out defense against the attacks.
It has been several years now since the offensive and defensive laser weapons and large cargo aircraft for the US Air Force fighter jets have been in development. However, a special five-year effort, referred to as the SHIELD program, has been taken on recently by the US Air Force Research Lab in order to develop effective onboard power, high-energy lasers and optics that would have the capabilities of defending large weapons such as fighter jets, C-130 aircraft and a B-52 bomber.
“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” US Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias reported in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior.
Potentially employing a pod, mounted to the external cavity that has transferable electrical power. There are already things in motion and the us military is in the process by the AFRL to build an experiment to demonstrate how the weapons would be bolted on to an aircraft, as stated by Zacharias.
By having an external POD, the use of shapes of the fuselage would play a factor because it will most likely increase the likelihood that enemy air defense radar systems would identify them, the defensive laser with the boats on design would most likely not be appropriate for usage on a stealthy platform, Zacharias added.
On the other hand, a significantly armed B-52, as big as a 1960s target, would definitely gain benefits from having the capability of defending itself from an airstrike. This type of technology absolutely has relevance and the possibility to be employable by the US Air Force, since the branch’s bomber is now overwhelmed with the series of B-52 high-tech upgrades, enabling it to be available for service for many years to come.
Having the capability of defending a B-52 can increase in importance over the years ahead, especially if some type of reconfigured B-52 is employed in the emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck” of the Pentagon. Lasers employ intense heat and light energy in order to decimate targets without the causation of huge explosions, and they are able to operate at impressively high speeds, empowering them with the ability to instantaneously destroy targets that are moving rapidly while providing defense against enemy attacks that are incoming, as explained by senior US Air Force leaders. Developers also add that the defensive laser weapons are also capable of being employed to electronically jam a missile that is attacking against us as well. “You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias explained.
Additionally, in order to increase the precision that would be required in order to track and destroy enemy attacks at rapid pace, the laser weapons need to be synchronize with telescope optics technology. Another suggested method that could be used to increase laser firepower is the binding of fiber optic cables in unison, which would, for example, convert a 1-Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon. “Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he asserted. Giving the laser the ability to efficiently target an object would also include the need to connect lasers and phase array radars so that they operate on the same wavelength which would further synchronize the weapon.
Fighter Jets Laser Arsenal
Eventually, laser weapons from fighter jets for the use on aircraft can be engineered in order to have the capability of a wide range of abilities and uses, which could include close air support, air to air combat, counter-UAs drone attacks and perhaps missile defense, as officials suggest. Decreased costs is another advantage of employing laser weapons, as they eliminate the requirement for high-cost missiles that are normally used in a high number of combat scenarios.
US Air Force officials have proclaimed that the branch of service has plans to start firing laser weapons from bigger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until developers are able to miniaturize the technology and configure the weapon so that it efficiently fires from fighter jets which include F-15s, F-16s and F 35s.
The Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration has been commissioned by Air Combat Command in order to focus their efforts on developing and integrating a laser weapon system that is increasingly compact while still carrying medium-range power, that will be mounted on a fighter, and employed for self-defense usage from ground to air or air to air attacks, as reported in a statement delivered from the branch of service.
Another benefit that lasers offer is that they empower weapons with the ability to hold an extended magazine. Instead of fighter jets soaring with only six or seven missiles equipped on the aircraft, an improved direct energy weapon system would give the jet the ability to fire thousands of shots while utilizing only a single gallon of jet fuel, as US Air Force experts have explained. All in all, the department of defense officials as a whole are very optimistic about laser weapons and, on a larger scope, directed-energy technologies.