US Special Operations Command has requested funding from the Defense Department for fiscal year 2018 budget to begin modifying an AC-130 gunship for a high energy laser capability.
If approved for the budget, Air Force Special Operations Command anticipates the service could begin the modifications as early as Fiscal 2020 on an AC-130W currently used backup aircraft inventory at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, an AFSOC spokesman told FlightGlobal. Millions of dollars have already been set aside for the ground and flight testing, AFSOC chief Lt Gen Brad Webb says.
The effort is working its way through SOCOM programme executive offices fixed wing, Dalghren laboratories, the undersecretary of defence and the office of cost assessment and programme evaluation, he tells FlightGlobal.
The move is not the first time SOCOM has looked to jump-start the high energy laser program. Earlier this year, SOCOM submitted its unfunded requirements list to Congress, which included a request to include funds for the laser in the Fiscal 2017 budget.