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Funding missing for laser kits on US AC-130J Gunships

Speaking at a hearing of the US Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging threats, Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb told lawmakers that the service still lacks adequate funds for a program to add a laser to the AC-130J gunship.

Funding missing for laser kits on US AC 130J Gunships.jpg First flight of a Lockheed Martin AC-130J Gunship (Picture source: USAF)

The Head of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Webb was answering a question from Sen. Martin Heinrich on why the service is moving slowly from testing a four-kilowatt laser to a 30-kilowatt version and now directly to a 60-kilowatt laser. “We’re $58 million short of having a full program that would get us a 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022,” Webb stated. In February, Webb told a roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that the “challenge on having the laser is funding.”

Up to 32 new AC-130Js are now expected to serve alongside the 12 new AC-130W Dragon Spears, replacing existing AC-130H/Us. Initially, the AC-130Js will use roll on/off kits from the Dragon Spear project in an HC-130J airframe. Eventually, they’ll install their own “Precision Strike Package” that includes a side-firing 30mm GAU-23A chain gun, wing-mounted GBU-39 GPS-guided SDB-I bombs, and laser-guided AGM-176 Griffin missiles launched from a “Gunslinger” attachment on the read cargo door. It may eventually add a side-firing 105mm howitzer like existing AC-130H/Us, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles like the Marines’ KC-130J Harvest Hawks, but those aren’t currently funded. These weapons will be controlled from a dual-console Mission Operator Pallet in the cargo bay, which will include multiple video, data, and communication links.