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Airborne Laser Homes In On Rocket-Like Target

By | May 14, 2007

      The Airborne Laser (ABL) ballistic missile defense (BMD) system successfully found and tracked a target that resembled an enemy missile rising in a launch, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

      On a note of irony, the test win was announced just as a key House panel was taking more than 45 percent of requested funds away from ABL for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008. (Please see full story beginning on page 1.)

      ABL, led by The Boeing Co. [BA], involves an extensively-modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft, with a laser system supplied by Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] that can demolish an enemy missile and fry its electronics, and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] providing the beam control/fire control system.

      The prototype ABL platform passively tracked a vertically dynamic target for the first time, using its passive sensors to autonomously locate, acquire, target and track an F-16 jet fighter soaring straight up with its afterburner flaming.

      This test represents a significant milestone in ABL flight test progress, and demonstrates a number of key system capabilities that will lead to a lethal demonstration against a boosting missile in 2009, according to MDA.

      The ABL currently is undergoing a series of flight tests that will demonstrate the beam control/fire control system prior to high-energy laser installation, which will begin later this year.

      ABL is the primary U.S. missile defense asset to destroy enemy missiles at their most vulnerable point, in their boost phase, just after they rise from a launch pad or silo, before the enemy weapon has the chance to emit multiple warheads, chaff or decoys.

      The ABL system will be able to destroy ballistic missiles of all classes using its megawatt-class high-energy laser.

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