Airborne Laser BMD Targeting System Scores On In-Flight Test
The Airborne Laser (ABL) ballistic missile defense (BMD) system worked well in its first in-flight test of the laser targeting system, the Missile Defense Agency reported.
In the test Thursday, there were multiple firings of the Tracking Illuminator Laser (TILL) to engage a missile-shaped target painted on the side of a KC-135 aircraft nicknamed “Big Crow.” It is used as an aerial target for low-power laser flight testing.
ABL involves a modified 747-400 aircraft made by The Boeing Co. [BA], the prime contractor, armed with laser components made by Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and a beam control/fire control unit by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].
The TILL is a kilowatt-class solid-state laser that is intended to track a boosting ballistic missile and identify the most vulnerable location on the missile in preparation for eventual firing of the high energy laser.
The laser will use directed energy to burn through the rocket motor case of a hostile missile.
This is the first open-air lasing in flight by ABL and marks a significant step towards achieving 2007 program knowledge points, according to MDA.
The test was conducted off the coast of California. The ABL beam control system was able to engage the target aircraft and calculate the instantaneous range to the target during the engagement.
Data also was collected on atmospheric turbulence and aero-optics using one of the Big Crow solid-state laser beacons in preparation to close the atmospheric compensation loop on a future flight.
Because atmospheric conditions can affect the laser beam, aiming it toward the target missile can in some instances be difficult, a problem solved by compensating for the distortion.