Boeing's Airborne Laser team begins laser-activation testing

May 28, 2008--The Boeing Company (Chicago, IL), Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, CA), Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD), and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have reached a milestone for the Airborne Laser (ABL) missile defense program this month by completing the first laser-activation testing on the ground at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

May 28, 2008--The Boeing Company (Chicago, IL), Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, CA), Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD), and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have reached a milestone for the Airborne Laser (ABL) missile defense program this month by completing the first laser-activation testing on the ground at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The final plumbing and wiring installations will be completed in the coming weeks. All major components of the weapon system, including the battle-management system, laser components, and beam-control/fire-control system, were installed earlier.

Laser-activation testing is a methodical process to ensure ABL's high-energy chemical laser has been properly integrated aboard the aircraft and is ready to produce enough power to destroy a ballistic missile. In the tests, first water or other inert substances is flowed through the laser to verify its integrity. Next, the laser's chemicals are flowed through the laser to confirm sequencing and control.

When the activation tests are complete, ground firings of the laser will occur, followed by flight tests of the entire ABL weapon system. The test phase will culminate in an airborne intercept test against a ballistic missile in 2009.

The ABL aircraft consists of a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half holds the high-energy laser, designed and built by Northrop Grumman. The aircraft's front half contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, provided by Boeing.

Boeing is the prime contractor for ABL, which will provide laser firepower to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight. ABL's potential speed, precision, and lethality may have other purposes as well, including destroying air-to-air, cruise, and surface-to-air missiles.

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