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Sat, Oct 14, 2006

Star Wars -- Boeing Style

How About A C-130H Laser Gunship?

Boeing is flight testing its Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program and has generated "first light" of ATL's high-energy chemical laser in ground tests. This achieves two key milestones in the laser gunship development effort.

During the "low-power" flight tests, which began Oct. 10 and conclude this fall, the ATL ACTD system will find and track ground targets at White Sands Missile Range, NM. A low-power, solid-state laser will serve as a surrogate for ATL's high-power chemical laser.

To prepare for the tests, Boeing outfitted a USAF 46th Test Wing C-130H with flight demonstration hardware at Crestview Aerospace Corp. in Crestview, FL. The hardware includes the beam director and optical control bench -- the laser's aiming system -- and weapon system consoles, which will display high-resolution imagery and enable the tracking of targets. Sensors aboard the aircraft will track and log "hits" from the laser.

Boeing first fired the high-energy chemical laser in ground tests on Sept. 21 in Albuquerque, NM -- known as "first light." Testing will conclude this fall. Boeing intends to install and flight test the laser on the aircraft in 2007. The team will fire the laser at mission-representative ground targets demonstrating the systems military capability. The laser will fire through a rotating turret extending through a 50-inch hole in the aircraft's belly.

Boeing's vice president and general manager for Missile Defense Systems Pat Shanahan says, "ATL will transform the battlefield by giving the warfighter a speed-of-light, precision engagement capability that will reduce collateral damage dramatically. The start of flight and laser testing shows that Boeing is making solid progress toward making this revolutionary capability a reality."

Boeing is developing ATL for the U.S. Department of Defense through an ACTD program.

ATL will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations. ATL will produce scalable effects, meaning the weapon operator will be able to select the degree and nature of the damage done to a target by choosing a specific aimpoint and laser shot duration. For example, targeting the fuel tank of a vehicle could result in total destruction of the vehicle, while targeting a tire might result in the vehicle stopping without injury to the driver.

Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser industry team includes L-3 Communications/Brashear, which made the laser turret, and HYTEC, Inc., which made various structural elements of the weapon system.



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