The long-anticipated deployment of the US Air Force’s airborne high-energy laser weapon aboard the AC-130J Ghostrider gunship faces yet another setback, with confirmed delays pushing the project into next year.

Initially slated as the inaugural operational airborne laser weapon, the program’s future is now fraught with uncertainty, casting shadows over its potential integration and the broader armament suite of the Ghostrider.

Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Testing Setbacks and Revised Schedule

In a recent update from the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to The War Zone, the flight testing schedule for the Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) on the AC-130J has been rescheduled to kick off in January 2024, with plans to conclude by June of that year.

This latest delay marks a deviation from the initial projections, which had aimed for integration and testing to occur by 2022 and then optimistically hoped for completion before the end of the current calendar year.

Complex Integration Challenges

The intricacies involved in merging the high-energy laser with the AC-130J have proven more formidable than anticipated.

Lockheed Martin, contracted since 2019 to deliver the critical laser source for the AHEL and facilitate its integration onto the aircraft, has encountered unforeseen technical challenges during this process.

These complexities have contributed to the mounting delays in the testing phase.