Airborne Laser moves one step closer to operation

An industry team led by Boeing (St. Louis, MO) and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (Washington, D.C.) took a major step toward demonstrating the capability of the Airborne Laser (ABL) by successfully firing surrogate lasers from inside an aircraft during ground tests at Boeing facilities in Wichita, KS in June.

Aug 1st, 2006

An industry team led by Boeing (St. Louis, MO) and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (Washington, D.C.) took a major step toward demonstrating the capability of the Airborne Laser (ABL) by successfully firing surrogate lasers from inside an aircraft during ground tests at Boeing facilities in Wichita, KS in June. Engineers placed the lasers in the ABL aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-400F, and fired them repeatedly into a range simulator. The tests verified proper alignment of the optical beam train-a series of optical components, steering and deformable mirrors, and sensors that will guide lasers to an actual target.

The lasers used in the tests were low-power surrogates for the ABL’s high-energy laser and two illuminator lasers. The next step is to install actual illuminators in the ABL jet for ground and flight tests later this year. The track illuminator laser is designed to track all classes of hostile ballistic missiles. The beacon illuminator laser will measure atmospheric conditions, allowing the beam-control and fire-control systems to compensate for atmospheric turbulence in the high-energy laser’s path to a target. In the upcoming tests, the illuminators will be fired in flight at a missile-shaped image painted on a test aircraft. Contact Marc Selinger atmarc.selinger@boeing.com.

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