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[] LDT 17.2.02: AC-130 laser version,

Die AC-130 als sog "airborne laser" ist entwicklungsgeschichtlich ja schon=
 lange im missile defense program verankert. Da=DF die ersten Flieger schon=
 2004 einsatzbereit sein sollen, er=F6ffnet f=FCr ganze Milit=E4rstrategie=
 v=F6llig neue Dimensionen, wobei hier klar ist, da=DF es nicht um missile=
 defense geht. Auch f=FCr die IW-Debatte (und arms control) wird dies=
 nat=FCrlich Auswirkungen haben.


America's laser of death cleared for take-off
By Sean Rayment
(Filed: 17/02/2002)=20

AMERICA'S enemies will soon face a weapon, once confined to the Star Wars=
 films, that can bring death at the speed of light.

The special operations AC-130 Spectre gunship, whose conventional weaponry=
 has been used to devastating effect since the Vietnam War, is to be fitted=
 with a laser that can shoot down missiles, punch holes in aircraft and=
 knock out ground radar stations.

Despite the successful operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in=
 Afghanistan, the emergence of asymmetric terrorist warfare - attacks such=
 as September 11 where the enemy is unseen - has led the Pentagon to=
 identify the need for a more sophisticated and deadly weapons system.=20

The next generation gunship, codenamed AC-X and nicknamed 'Son of Spectre'=
 by US defence officials, will carry all the weaponry already used on the=
 AC-130, including twin 20mm Vulcan cannon (capable of firing 2,500 rounds=
 per minute), 40mm Bofor cannon (100 rounds per minute) and a 105mm=
 Howitzer. Its 21st-century addition, however, will be its biggest punch: a=
 chemical oxygen iodine laser (Coil), capable of carrying out lethal and=
 non-lethal attacks.

The advantage of laser weapons is that they strike at the speed of light. In=
 the Coil, the power of a chemical reaction is converted to laser energy,=
 and the weapon can carry on firing as long as its power source is intact.

Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary, has given the go-ahead for=
 the next-generation AC-130, which includes full funding for the=
 "integration of a direct-energy weapon".=20

The Pentagon is yet to announce when the new laser-equipped "Son of Spectre"=
 will come into operation, but it is understood that the first upgraded=
 version could be involved in military operations within two years.

Although lasers exist that can hit aircraft, disable optically guided=
 missiles and destroy communications lines, the ability to vaporise enemy=
 troops and vehicles Star Wars-style will take a few more years to develop.

The Spectre, flown by the 16th Special Operations Squadron, has a crew of=
 13, including two observers using television and infra-red images to direct=
 the four gunners on to their target.

Working in pairs, normally providing close air support for special forces=
 ground operations, Spectres can circle targets for hours, pulverising areas=
 the size of football pitches with extraordinary precision.=20

The Spectre has, however, come to the end of its operational life and=
 further upgrades have been ruled out on cost grounds.

Rob Hewson, the editor of Jane's Air Launched Weapons, said: "The laser will=
 be the atomic weapon of the 21st century. Since the 1970s, US scientists=
 have conducted a series of secret experiments in the Nevada desert using=

"We know that they had lasers capable of causing immense damage but they=
 needed huge power packs. This remains a problem and this is why a laser=
 weapon can only be fitted on an air frame the size of the AC-130. But=
 advances will be made and the power plant will shrink and one day it will=
 dominate the battle field.

"The Americans may already have a very powerful laser weapon far more=
 advanced than we have seen. They have been carrying out research in this=
 field for years but it is a very secret weapons programme and we have no=
 idea how far they have progressed."

Once the Coil and its power plant have been fully developed, the USAF hopes=
 to fit it to a whole range of manned and unmanned aircraft, such as the=
 Predator reconnaissance probe, which is fitted with Hellfire missiles and=
 has been used in CIA operations in Afghanistan.=20

Lasers could also be used as an additional weapon system to fighters,=
 bombers, helicopter gunships and warships but this is unlikely for a decade=

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