U.S. F-35, F-15, and F-16 jet fighters soon may have the unlimited magazines offered by laser weapons

June 3, 2019
Hard to beat laser weapons, which offer jet fighters arms as fast as the speed of light, have virtually unlimited magazines, stealth, and precision.

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – On April 23, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) tested a fiber-optic laser at the White Sands Test Range in New Mexico that successfully shot down “multiple air-launched missiles in flight.” The National Interest reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

The Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHIELD), pictured here, currently exists as a bulky, ground-based demonstrator. However, the Air Force is optimistic that SHIELD can be shrunk to a small pod that could be tested on an F-15 fighter by 2021 and eventually integrated also integrated into F-16 and F-35 single-engine jet fighters. Some sources suggest the system may see its first flight tests on C-17 or C-130 cargo planes later in 2019.

If airborne-lasers prove as viable and effective as expected, then future laser weapons could profoundly transform aerial warfare by increasing the survivability of fighters, bombers and even tankers and transport planes to deadly anti-aircraft missiles. Further down the line, lasers could eventually serve as very fast and precise air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons with virtually unlimited magazines.

Laser weapons are growing rapidly in prominence, from small-arms and tank-mounted laser dazzlers used by China, to ground or helicopter-mounted anti-drone and -missile lasers tested by the Army, and close defense systems on U.S. Navy ships. Lasers possess the advantage of exceptional speed (it’s hard to beat the speed of light!), stealth and precision, as well as extremely low cost per “shot” and virtually unlimited magazines.

Related: Raytheon considers high-energy laser weapons as best approach to defeating future hypersonic missiles

Related: Air Force test of SHiELD laser weapon indicates it is ready to shoot down incoming enemy missiles

Related: Military eyes prototype megawatt-class laser weapon for ballistic missile defense in next seven years

John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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