Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed
Martin Company, a number of other industry teammates and the US
Missile Defense Agency have begun Airborne Laser (ABL) flight tests
with the entire weapon system integrated aboard the ABL
ABL, a heavily modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft, completed its
functional check flight April 21 from Edwards Air Force Base with
the beam control/fire control system and the high-energy laser
onboard, confirming the aircraft is airworthy, ready for more
airborne tests, and on track for its missile-intercept
demonstration this year.
The current flight test campaign follows the successful
completion of a year-long effort to integrate and test the Chemical
Oxygen Iodine Laser on board the highly modified 747-400 freighter
aircraft. This phase of the development program will demonstrate
ABL’s ability to detect, track, target and engage
progressively more difficult targets, culminating with a lethal
demonstration against a boosting, threat-representative missile
planned for later this year.
"With ABL's return to flight, we are on the verge of fully
demonstrating the unprecedented speed, mobility, precision and
lethality that ABL could provide to America's warfighters," said
Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director.
ABL would deter potential adversaries and provide speed-of-light
capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their
boost phase of flight. Eliminating missiles in their boost phase
would reduce the number of shots required by other elements of the
layered ballistic missile defense system. ABL also has the
potential to be employed for other missions, including destroying
aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.
The program has logged many accomplishments over the past
several years. In 2007, ABL completed almost 50 flight tests that
demonstrated its ability to track an airborne target, measure and
compensate for atmospheric conditions, and deliver a surrogate
high-energy laser beam on the target. In 2008, the team completed
installing the high-energy laser onboard the aircraft and, for the
first time, operated the entire weapon system at high power
Boeing is the prime contractor and overall systems integrator
for ABL, and provides the modified aircraft and battle management
system. Northrop Grumman supplies the high-energy laser, and
Lockheed Martin provides the beam control/fire control system.