Mark it on your calendars: The U.S. Air Force aims to have laser-based fighter jets by 2030.
A recently published RFI (Request for Information), has revealed that the Air Force Research Laboratory is eager to make such weapons a reality for next-generation jets, The Aviationist reported.
“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,” according to the Aviationist.
The 2030 timeline for the fighter jets dictates, to some extent, other progress markers. The date that weapon elements are slated to be ready for laboratory testing is October, 2014. Given that, simulated tests in “operational environments” are eyed for 2022, according to The Aviationist.
The U.S. Air Force already has similar weapons — most notably the Airborne Laser System used on 747s — but future developments would allow the lasers to be more versatile. They would be at a much higher altitude (65,000 feet) and much higher speeds (Mach 0.6 - 2.5).