close 'Aggressive' Chinese fighter jet shakes US Air Force plane Video

‘Aggressive’ Chinese fighter jet shakes US Air Force plane

A U.S. Air Force aircraft shakes after a Chinese fighter pilot performs an ‘unnecessarily aggressive maneuver’ over the South China Sea, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Credit: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command/LOCAL NEWS X /TMX

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A long-anticipated high-energy laser weapon will no longer be an option for Air Force special operations gunships after “technical challenges” forced leaders to scrap at least one idea for its use.

The Air Force’s Airborne High Energy Laser, or AHEL, missed its “available integration and flight test window” to be used on the AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, meaning the high-tech weapon will not see battle in the way leaders originally envisioned, according to a report from that was confirmed by Fox News Digital.

Air Force Special Operations Command had been pursuing the idea of mounting a high-energy laser on fixed-wing aircraft since 2015, according to the report, with Lockheed Martin receiving a contract in 2019 to demonstrate such a system on the AC-130J.


“Without the slightest bang, whoosh, thump, explosion or even aircraft engine hum, key targets are permanently disabled,” former AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said in 2017 when describing the concept, according to the report. “The enemy has no communications, no escape vehicle, no electrical power and no retaliatory [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance].”

Lockhead Martin delivered the system to the Air Force in 2021, though testing on the system faced delays until an announcement that trials would start in January 2024. 

A U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship

A U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship taxis on the flightline July 19, 2021, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marcel Williams. This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out aircraft and squadron identifiers.)

Those trials found that the AHEL achieved “significant end-to-end, high-power operation” during ground tests but missed the integration and flight test windows, a spokesperson for the command told Fox News Digital, causing the service to “[refocus] on ground testing to improve operations and reliability to posture for a successful hand-off for use by other agencies.”


That reality has seemingly caused AFSOC to scrap its attempt to integrate the laser weapon in its future plans, with the report noting that the command’s fiscal 2025 budget request has zeroed out the project, a change from its $3 million request the previous year and $15.387 million request in FY 2023.

An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship

An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship takes off for a training mission over Hurlburt Field, Florida, Oct. 15, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Spain)

But the report notes that the laser weapon could find its way into other uses for the Air Force, including the possibility that it could be mounted on a fighter jet and used as a defensive system against incoming missiles.


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