- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2016

Air Force Special Operations Command will be outfitting AC-130 gunships with laser weapons by the end of the decade.

A two-part study launched by the Air Force and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren in Virginia demonstrated the viability of using commercially available technology to give special operations forces upgraded AC-130J “Ghostrider” aircraft.

“We have identified our partners that have responded to our [request for] information [and] we are in the process of evaluating that,” Lt. Col. John DiSebastian, director of fixed-wing tech insertion at Special Operations Command, said at Special Operations Forces International Conference in Tampa, Fla., National Defense Magazine reported Wednesday. “We have not downselected away from any, or chosen any. We are still, as part of this architecture, looking at what is the best operational capability and determining which vendors can support that.”

The officer said that the Pentagon would not require a single company to supply technology. Instead, it will consolidate individual components and “control the interfaces” on its own.

“We believe that … taking the existing capabilities that industry can provide, that we can pull those pieces together and provide a system that is operationally useful to the warfighter,” Lt. Col. DiSebastian said. “It may not be the final configuration that they are looking for, but similar [to] our previous gunships, we would put one capability on and then grow it and then add another and build upon it.”

AFSOC plans to start its program in fiscal year 2017 and conduct flight tests in 2020, National Defense Magazine reported. The officer said final assessments of the Air Force’s study will be ready by this summer and then turned over to senior leadership.

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