Lockheed Martin prepares for flight testing of Airborne High Energy Lasers on AC-130Js

France's second KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refueler takes off from Lockheed Martin's facility in Marietta, Georgia, upon delivery in 2019.France's second KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refueler takes off from Lockheed Martin's facility in Marietta, Georgia, upon delivery in 2019 (photo provided courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin completed the factory acceptance testing for Airborne High Energy Lasers (AHEL) on AC-130Js in preparation for testing the lasers in flight.

“Completion of this milestone is a tremendous accomplishment for our customer,” said Rick Cordaro, vice president, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, in the news release for the project. “These mission success milestones are a testament of our partnership with the U.S. Air Force in rapidly achieving important advances in laser weapon system development. Our technology is ready for fielding today.”

According to the Lockheed Martin website in the section describing AHEL technology, “Laser weapon systems have tracked and detected targets including small rockets, boats, UACs, and a truck, with high fidelity, and maintains the laser beam with enough time to eliminate the target.”

When the Courier reached out to Lockheed Martin for comment on the compatibility between the AHEL system and the AC-130J, Tyler Griffin, Lockheed Martin Business Development Director, provided the following in an email:

Lockheed Martin’s airborne high energy laser subsystem met all of our customer’s technical and environmental requirements. This AHEL design showcases the reliability and ruggedization inherent in our spectrally combined fiber laser products, and these characteristics are a great match for this workhorse platform and its many missions.  Our laser product architecture is highly scalable and modular, enabling the power level to be tailored to specific missions. We look forward to supporting the U.S. Air Force as this capability transitions into the field as soon as possible.

The news release announcing the factory testing further described the project:

Lockheed Martin delivered the AHEL subsystem for integration with other systems in preparation for ground testing and ultimately flight testing aboard the AC-130J aircraft. In January 2019, Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for integration, test and demonstration on the AC-130J aircraft and is on a rapid schedule to continue testing this capability.

In July 2021, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division awarded Lockheed Martin a $12 million cost-plus-fixed fee, indefinite-delivery, five-year contract award for technical services, integration, test, and demonstration for the AHEL system.

Lockheed Martin and Cobb County

The Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta has been a major employer in Cobb County since 1951, when the Lockheed Corporation, a predecessor of Lockheed Martin, took over the former site of the WWII Bell Bomber plant.

In response to a request by the Courier for a previous article, the spokesperson for the Marietta operations of the company wrote:

The C-130 remains the largest program at the Marietta site. We are currently building the C-130J Super Hercules and I’ve attached our updated Fast Facts for insights on that program. We’ve produced every production model C-130 at the Marietta site, which means Hercs have been rolling out of Marietta for almost 66 years. It’s staple here in Cobb County! You can learn more about the C-130J in our brochure located here.

We also provide support (i.e., sustainment) for the C-5 Galaxy, which wrapped up a major modification providing 52 C-5s with new engines and avionics, in 2018. We celebrated the C-5’s 50th anniversary in 2018 and expect to see that aircraft in service – thanks to its upgrades and unique hauling capabilities – until 2045. See press release for more information. We also support the P-3 Orion through Marietta-based teams. Additionally, we manufacture F-35 center wings here in Marietta.