First Aegis, now ABL
June 28, 2006
Airborne Laser Shows Its Stuff
By Molly McMillin, The Wichita Eagle
The Airborne Laser program has taken a major step forward in demonstrating the plane's capability, Boeing officials say.
An industry team, led by Boeing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, successfully fired surrogate lasers from inside the plane, a Boeing Wichita modified 747, the company said this week.
The tests were performed by Boeing in Wichita, where the aircraft is undergoing further modifications.
"The surrogate-laser tests provide further proof that the ABL (Airborne Laser) design is sound," Boeing Missile Defense Systems vice president and general manager Pat Shanahan said in a statement.
The testing showed that the optics and mirrors are properly aligned, the sensor system is acceptable and the software controls and safety systems are operating correctly, Boeing said.
The lasers used in the testing were low-power surrogates for the high-energy laser and two illuminator beams that will eventually be used.
The Airborne Laser is designed to shoot down enemy missiles while they are in their boost phase.
About 200 people in Wichita work on the program, the majority of them Boeing employees.
Employees are focused on installing illuminators and completing the final series of ground tests.
"The program continues to make progress toward a fully operational integrated beam control/fire control system," Boeing said in a statement.
Wichita workers are also nearing the completion of work to install the chemical tanks and the wiring and plumbing systems.
The aircraft will return to Edwards Air Force Base in California at the end of this year.
A high-energy laser will be installed in the plane next year, and the first missile shoot-down test is scheduled for 2008.
Boeing is the prime contractor for the Airborne Laser program. Northrop Grumman supplies the high-energy and beacon illuminator lasers, and Lockheed Martin provides the nose-mounted turret and the beam and fire control system.