The NC-130H Advanced Tactical Laser

The first decade of the 21st century saw a revival of interest in airborne directed energy weapons, including the Advanced Tactical Laser and the Hercules.

Lasers offered the possibility of an ultra-precision engagement capability that could greatly reduce collateral damage in comparison with more traditional weapons. Installed on a Lockheed AC-130 gunship for example, it would permit operations against targets in cluttered urban environments. Hitting such targets could be done covertly, as – unlike in the movies – the beam of a high-energy chemical laser is invisible and silent, while the gunship could be up to 9.3 miles away. The 4in-wide beam could cut through metal in five seconds. An operational weapon system, the Precision Airborne Standoff Directed Energy Weapon, was conceived to be modular, able to be installed and removed from individual aircraft in a few hours.

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