The Air Force is already flying with lasers on its large aircraft every day, but the goal is to learn from experience to get larger power outputs and better thermal managements to be able to transition to other aircraft, and eventually to have an offensive laser capability, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering told Congress on Wednesday. “I think we are on a good path,” said David Walker during a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing. Walker said the Air Force’s proposed budget for science and technology is $2.5 billion for Fiscal 2017, up 4.5 percent from Fiscal 2016. The service is emphasizing research in hypersonics and low-cost cruise missile technologies for contested environments, and is currently doing pilot experimentation campaigns addressing future concepts for close air support, operationalizing directed energy, reducing time to move from data to decisions, and defeating agile and intelligent targets, Walker said. Looking ahead 20 years, Walker said he sees a lot of promise in “the science of the very small,” and anticipates being able to build materials then that we can’t even conceive of now.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.