ABL Advances Toward Flight Test
WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The United States has reported progress in development
of an airborne laser.
Defense executives said contractors have accelerated preparations for
the flight test of the first U.S. airborne laser. The first flight test of
the Boeing 747 aircraft fitted with a chemical oxygen iodine laser was
scheduled for the fall of 2009.
On Feb. 12, Northrop Grumman operated its laser onboard the B-747
aircraft as part of what was termed intensive ground tests. The laser fired
multiple blasts that lasted up to three second each.
"The hallmarks of these latest firings are durability and
repeatability,'' Northrop vice president Dan Wildt said. "The duration of
each firing of the megawatt-class laser was limited only by ground
Executives said the firings were meant to adjust the mixture of
chemicals to fuel the laser. They said the settings would used for future
testing, including the planned interception of a ballistic missile in 2009.
ABL was meant to intercept a ballistic missile in its boost phase at a
range of 300 kilometers. The program was delayed for several years by
problems in reducing the weight of the laser, designed for installation in
the nose of the B-747.
In November 2008, the megawatt-class laser was fired through ABL's
onboard beam control, fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, in
a test at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Executives said the laser
would continue firings in ground tests in early 2009. Boeing has also
developed the battle management system.
"The tuned high-power laser will be fired through the on-board BC/FC
system into a range simulator to complete ABL's weapon system ground testing
phase in the next few weeks, clearing the ABL system to begin weapon system
flight tests," Northrop said on Feb. 19.