The U.S. Air Force is expanding and accelerating its research and development of laser weapons for jet fighters, which it hopes to have operational by the early 2020s.
In addition, the service is also upgrading its combat strategy, tactics, and operational concepts in order to accommodate the rapidly emerging technology, Warrior Maven reported.
Lasers offer new capabilities that will change the nature of air combat, experts note.
As for the Air Force, officials believe that jet-fired lasers can become a reality within a few years as mobile power systems become stronger and smaller, as other techologies such as tracking targets rapidly evolve.
Lasers will bring increased precision at the speed of light to incinerate targets on the ground or in the air, say experts. Also, laser weapons can be adjusted to achieve a certain desired effect: Total destruction, partial damage, or a smaller, more measured impact, depending on the mission.
“Laser weapons offer warfighters opportunities for quick and precise target engagement, flexibility and lighter and more responsive support logistics,” Eva Blaylock, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Research Laboratory, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.
Laser systems currently under development will allow fighter pilots to engage multiple air and ground targets simultaneously. Also, lasers will give pilots unlimited weapons capability, dependent only upon the aircraft’s power plant.
Besides costing far less per ‘shot’ than current convention missiles, at 186,000 miles per second, lasers will be impossible to evade.
Test beds for laser systems have been developed, and the Air Force expects to begin real-world testing by 2021. The Air Force will probably start with larger C-130 and C-17 aircraft at first, then fighter-sized aircraft such as the F-15 and F-35 once technology shrinks the size of the weapon.