It flies around, looking downward to see ICBM exhaust plumes. It locks onto the ICBM, and shoots it down with high powered lasers. Welcome to the future.
The Boeing Airborne Laser
Boeing is the prime contractor of the ABL, which places a megawatt, high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser on a Boeing 747-400F aircraft to detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles in the boost phase of flight.
The flight trials initially will involve air worthiness testing of recent modifications to the aircraft, but will quickly move into low power weapon system tests, including the integrated operations of the battle management and beam control/fire control segments now installed on the aircraft.
All major elements of the Airborne Laser weapon system are now delivered to Edwards Air Force Base for continued integration and test, said Boeing Vice President and ABL Program Manager Scott W. Fancher.
Congratulations to the joint customer and contractor team for their hard work and commitment to execution and safety in making this revolutionary system a reality.
ABL is a truly transformational weapon system and one of the most complex engineering challenges ever undertaken in an aircraft, Fancher continued. The team is making solid progress in developing this system to provide a boost phase defense against the ballistic missile threat.
Brig. Gen. (select) Ellen Pawlikowski, Missile Defense Agency Airborne Laser program director, also congratulated the ABL team for bringing YAL-1 into passive weapon system testing.
Pawlikowski highlighted the team's achievement of its performance goals for 2004 and the importance of its efforts.
The laser segment of ABL is undergoing segment testing in ABL's Ground Systems Integration Laboratory at Edwards before it is integrated with the aircraft for weapons level systems testing. Work is ongoing for an upcoming first light of the ABL laser modules. That test will involve the simultaneous firing of the ABL's six laser modules, and begin a test evolution that will culminate in simulated operation in an airborne environment.
Other ABL partners include Northrop Grumman, which provides the laser segment, and Lockheed Martin, which provides the Beam Control/Fire Control segment.