Image courtesy AP
The US Missile Defense Agency is progressing smoothly with its ABL

The United States Missile Defense Agency has pulled the wraps off its ABL (Airborne Laser) YAL-1A aircraft. The ABL YAL-1A, which is a modified Boeing 747-400F, packs a high-energy laser developed by Lockheed Martin, a tracking illuminator designed by Raytheon and a Northrop Grumman beacon illuminator.

Recent testing conducted on the ground demonstrated the capabilities of some of the low-power systems used in the ABL aircraft:

  • Verifying the alignment of the optical components that guide the lasers to the designated target
  • Demonstrating the end-to-end capability to control and fire the illuminator lasers
  • Demonstrating the ability of the beam control/fire control system and the Boeing-developed battle management system to track and target a ballistic missile, using a simulated target
  • Proving the ability to control a low-power surrogate for the high-energy laser and fire it at a simulated target

"The results of the testing underscore the soundness of our technical approach. We functionally demonstrated ABL's ability to locate and track a target, illuminate the target to compensate for atmospheric disturbances and then precisely focus a surrogate laser beam on the target to destroy it," said Art Napolitano, ABL program director.

Next up for the ABL program is to perform in-flight testing of the beam control/fire control system. The high-energy laser used to shoot down incoming missiles will be installed into the aircraft next year while a missile shoot-down test is scheduled for 2008.

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