September 9, 2008 In another milestone for the Airborne Laser (ABL) program, and further evidence of the growing science-fiction like capabilities of the modern military machine, Boeing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have successfully fired a high-energy chemical laser onboard the ABL aircraft during ground testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The test moves the project a step closer to a full missile shoot-down demonstration expected in 2009.
A joint project between Northrop Grumman (who built the laser), Lockheed Martin (beam control/fire control system) and prime contractor Boeing (battle management system), the ABL is a high-energy laser housed in a modified Boeing 747-400F that is designed to autonomously detect, track and shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight.
The latest test saw a significant reduction on installation time on the aircraft - down to about a third of the time required when the laser was installed in the laboratory at Edwards.
"The achievement of 'first light' onboard the Airborne Laser aircraft is a key milestone for the ABL team," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "The team did an extraordinary job preparing ABL for this important test. The program remains on track to reach the missile shoot-down demonstration planned for 2009."
More ground tests are planned in the build-up to the 2009 demonstration including the firing of the laser into an onboard calorimeter to measure its power and testing of the beam control/fire control system.