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AFSOC Boss “Cautiously Optimistic” Laser Program Will Move Forward

By Amy McCullough

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Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said he is “cautiously optimistic” the service will get the funding it needs to finally move forward with plans to put lasers on gunships.

Because of repeated continuing resolutions and unstable funds, the service has only been able to “inch” the laser program along, but Webb said he hopes the recent two-year budget agreement and Secretary Heather Wilson’s renewed emphasis on science and technology will change that. 

“I’d love to get a fully funded program” so the command can put the capability on a gunship “where we can either prove the zealots and disprove the naysayers, or vice versa,” Webb told reporters at AWS18.

The service’s Fiscal 2019 budget request increases research, development, test and evaluation funding by $4.8 billion over the Fiscal 2018 request, marking a two-year increase of $10 billion from Fiscal 2017 funds. However, Webb said it’s not clear if a “specific number has been applied to lasers, per say.”

The Defense Department is expected to roll out its Directed Energy Roadmap early this year, which looks at how all the services will use directed energy, such as high-powered lasers and radio frequency weapons.

“I’m optimistic with this focus on science and technology,” said Webb. “This needs to happen. We’ve been insistent on that for a number of years."