Engine modifications are in the pipeline for the F-35, the newest, stealthiest fighter in the U.S. arsenal. According to Aviation Weekly, The new Pratt and Whitney engine would allow greater range, lower fuel consumption and the power needed to carry directed energy weapons. Presumably this would mean air-to-air and air-to-ground laser weapons.
While this mod would not accommodate the larger, satellite-killing laser described in my novel “High Ground,” it is a major progression in that direction. Lasers can be recharged and fired so long as the platform it rides on can still generate the needed power. No rearming of cannons or missiles necessary.
Followers of this blog may recall that the Air Force already has an aircraft-based laser under development capable of boring a four-inch hole in an enemy tank. Such a weapon currently requires a heavy-lift cargo aircraft for such a ground support mission.
Do you have any doubt that the scenario of reducing the weight and size of such devices will reach the edge of the fictional technology of “High Ground” in the near future?
Some readers have asked why the aircraft which flies over Esther Brandt’s dilapidated mansion, rousing the little town of Leitrim to rise up in her defense is an F-15? It’s an “old jet” that has been surpassed by the newer, higher tech F-22 and the newest F-35 after all. But the Air Force has had a hard time replacing this reliable, high performance jet for certain missions that newer, high-tech aircraft can’t manage. Lifting a heavy weapons payload above 100,000 feet to edge of space, would be one such mission. At that, my fictional F-15s still required major engine upgrades for their missions.
The F-35 upgrades, like their fictional counterparts, are “drop-in” replacements designed to fit the aircraft systems and airframe the same way the original engines did.