The Boeing Company, industry
teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have completed installing the
high-energy laser aboard the Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft and have begun testing
the laser with its chemical fuel at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The tests involve flowing the laser's chemicals through the laser to confirm
sequencing and control. Once these tests are completed, the test team will
fire the laser aboard the aircraft on the ground for the first time.
"The Airborne Laser team has done a great job preparing the high-energy
laser for these fuel tests, which will lead the way toward achieving 'first
light' of the laser aboard the aircraft," said Mike Rinn, Boeing vice
president and ABL program director. "Once again, we made and demonstrated
enormous progress toward ushering in a new age of directed-energy weapons."
Repeated laser firings aboard the aircraft will demonstrate lasing duration
and power at levels suitable for the destruction of multiple classes of
ballistic missiles. The laser will then be fired through the aircraft's beam
control/fire control system, including the nose-mounted turret. This will be
followed by functional check flights of the entire ABL weapon system. The
test campaign will start with the first airborne intercept of a ballistic
missile in 2009.
The ABL aircraft consists of a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half
holds the high-energy laser, designed and built by Northrop Grumman. Before
being installed, the high-energy laser completed rigorous ground testing in
a laboratory at Edwards. The aircraft's front half contains the beam
control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle
management system, provided by Boeing.
Boeing is the prime contractor for ABL, which will provide speed-of-light
capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase
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