According to the recently published RFI (Request for Information), the ARFL (Air Force Research Laboratory) is looking forward to development of the laser weapons for next generation fighter jets.
Even if this is an Air Force initiative, it is possible that the Navy and US Army will run similar independent research programs.
The U.S. Air Force plans to employ laser based weapons by 2030.
Based on requirements weapon elements will have to be ready for laboratory test by October 2014, while they must reach readiness for test on a plane and in simulated operational environment by 2022.
Three new laser devices are to be created: small power marking laser, that would act as a marker and as a blinding weapon against the optical sensors of the enemy planes; medium power laser that is to be used against air-2-air missiles; and a high power device to act as an offensive weapon.
The weapon is to be operable up to 65,000 feet of altitude and within a speed envelope of Mach 0.6 – 2.5.
Northrop Grumman is developing a solid state laser for the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin is on a 30-month contract to develop a prototype turret in an aircraft for the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) system, while Boeing works on ground forces solutions, including HEL MD cannon that is to be vehicle mounted. Some solutions have been tested already, e.g. USS Ponce self-defense system against small vessels.
It must be remembered though, that the laser program is not going to be the first USAF experience with this kind of weapon, since the U.S. Air Force already used ABL on a 747.
ABL used a laser range finder, tracking laser (TILL – Track Illuminator Laser) and finally BILL (Bacon Illuminator Laser) and it was after that when the target was finally destroyed by the main weapon.
USAF tested a chemical-laser weapon using Lockheed C-130H back in 2009.
The laser weapon that is to be developed will probably be employed firstly on the F/A-XX aircraft, that is to constitute a replacement for the Super Hornet.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are bringing together the best of the two enterprises, and the rest of industry, in support of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program, and we are honored to support our U.S. Air Force customer and this important national priority. Stable planning, along with efficient and affordable development and production approaches, enables our team to reduce development risk by leveraging mature technologies and integrating existing systems.
When it comes to the new bomber, USAF plans to order 80-100 airframes. These are to be long range and have stealth capabilities. The full operational capability would be achieved circa 2025.
The bomber is to use as many ready parts as possible to reduce the risk of failure. Price of a single airframe is estimated to be as little as $550 million.
Additionaly, a unmanned version of the bomber and a new long range missile are also going to be developed within the scope of LRS-B initiative.
The LRS-B budget for 2012 tax year was $581 million. $6,3 billion are planned for the period of 2013-2017.
A famous episode is the one of the AH-64 shot down intact during the 2003 attack on Karbala, during which the two US pilots were captured and shown on television along with the helicopter: still, Pentagon later stated the Apache had been destroyed with an airstrike the day following the capture.
Another day, another Iranian drone is unveiled. Sometimes, more than one.
On Sept. 27, Tehran displayed a weaponized version of the Shahed 129. On Sept. 28, the Iranian Army Ground Forces received three new models: the Mohajer M2, the Raad 85 suicide drone and the Yasir, a modified copy of the Boeing ScanEagle.
On Dec. 5, 2012, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi announced that they had captured a ScanEagle drone that had violated the Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.
The ScanEagle is a small, low-cost robot with a 10ft wingspan built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing. It can stay aloft for more than 20 hours, at a cruising speed of 60 knots, it’s equipped with sensors that can provide real time video feeds to mobile ground control stations within 100 km range and can be catapulted from ships through a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher (as done by the U.S. Navy).
At the end of the mission, it is retrieved using a “Skyhook” system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole with a wingtip hook.
Interestingly, the Iranians have modified a little but the ScanEagle, by adding a twin-tailboom empennage and an inverted v-tail elerudder similar to that of the RQ-7 Shadow. Several Yasir drones (some of those partially disassembled to be carried in a suitcase) were displayed in Tehran meaning that production for this modified ScanEagle has been proceding.
The “collective” aerial refueling certification activity, organized by Italy with the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE), falls within a series of European initiatives to develop and implement common operational capacities.
Aerial refuelers are considered among the most important assets in any military air campaign.
The recent Air War in Libya highlighted the lack of tankers among the European partners.
The possibility to work together and share these important assets in a multinational context can help optimizing resources and projecting the air power in a more flexible and immediate way when the need arise.
This concept, dubbed “pooling and sharing” is even more important in light of the ever shrinking Defense budgets.
The activity conducted by the Swedish and French planes with the tanker of the Aeronautica Militare, belonging to the 14° Stormo, based at Pratica di Mare, but flown by aircrews of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Flying Test Wing), is an important step toward future co-operation between Italy, France, Sweden and all the other operators of the aircraft involved in the certification (for instance Hungary and Czech Republic that fly the Gripen), that will allow these European countries to work together in any future military operation.
The Boeing KC-767A (whose revised version, under the designation KC-46 was selected by the U.S. Air Force in February 2011 for replacing its ageing KC-135s), had its war first at the end of May 2011, few months after the delivery to the Italian Air Force.
During Operation Unified Protector, the new tanker, with a limited flight envelope and not yet certified with all types of receivers, refueled only the Italian assets (using the central fuel hose).