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Air Force wants solid-state not chemical lasers

Boeing has been working an Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) for quite some time and so far, the program has been successful. Earlier this month, the ALTB aircraft was able to successfully target and destroy a liquid-fueled short-range threat-representative ballistic missile. The missile was destroyed while boosting after being hit by the megawatt-class high-energy laser. The next target for live tests for the system was a solid fuel missile fired an hour after the liquid fuel missile was destroyed. The solid fuel missile was destroyed by the laser as well.

With the program spanning many years and now proving to be effective in the field, many would expect the Air Force to be salivating at the thought of fielding a fleet of missile killing laser aircraft. However, General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff has quashed any notions of moving to production for a fleet of airborne laser (ABL) aircraft.

Schwartz said while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee this week that the ABL test was "a magnificent technical achievement," reports DefenseTech. He went on to say that the ABL "does not represent something that is operationally viable."

The reason for the statement is that Schwartz believes that the "future coin of the realm" will be solid-state lasers rather than the chemical laser that Boeing designed for the ABL program.

The Boeing system was first deemed ready for flight-testing in October of 2006 and the first shoot down test was originally scheduled for 2008. In December of 2008, the Boeing system was able to fire its laser beam through its beam control guidance system for the first time.

Developments costs for the airborne laser program have totaled $8.2 billion according to the Daily Herald.





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