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US military testing ‘bolt-on’ laser weapons for B-52 bombers

Posted on 03 June,2017

The US Air Force’s long-standing ambition to outfit its fleet of aircraft with laser weaponry has seemingly taken another step forward. Air Force scientists have claimed that an advanced “bolt-on” lasers using advanced optics technology is currently in testing.

Designed to fit larger aircraft such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, the defensive lasers have been designed to intercept and incinerate missiles from air-to-air or air-to-ground attacks, Air Force chief scientist Greg Zacharias told Warrior.

The defence measure is part of the Air Force’s Self-protected High-Energy Laser Demonstration (SHIELD) programme established as a five-year project to fit high-powered lasers to its larger aircraft.

Due to power demands, the experimental technology is currently being tested for non-fighter aircraft with enough on-board output to accommodate the SHIELD pods. As well as its size, the B-52 has been selected as it’s currently undergoing an upgrade programme including next-gen avionics and communications systems in order to keep the 1960s-era bomber in service until 2040.

Concerns over the bolt-on design attracting unwanted attention from air defence radar systems also means the technology is ineligible for stealth aircraft, such as the F-35 Lightning II, until it can be miniaturised.

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