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Boeing has successfully fired the laser aboard the ABL aircraft through the onboard laser guidance system

The key to stopping missile attacks is to be able to target and destroy the missiles in the boost phase of their flight before they can reach the target and cause untold damage. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has been testing the Airborne Laser (ABL) system for several years now.

Boeing announced recently that it had successfully completed the first ground firing of the ABL high-energy laser through the beam control/fire control system. The test was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base and the beam traveled through the fire control system and exited at the nose mounted turret of the aircraft.

Boeing announced in September that it had completed the first test firing of the laser, but the beam was captured by an onboard calorimeter rather than exiting the aircraft. The ground test last week targeted and directed the laser beam from the aircraft to a simulated missile.

Scott Fancher, VP and general manager of Boeing missile Defense Systems said in a statement, "This test is significant because it demonstrated that the Airborne Laser missile defense program has successfully integrated the entire weapon system aboard the ABL aircraft. With the achievement of the first firing of the laser aboard the aircraft in September, the team has now completed the two major milestones it hoped to accomplish in 2008, keeping ABL on track to conduct the missile shootdown demonstration planned for next year."

The next step for the testing program according to Michael Rinn, Boeing VP and ABL program director is an additional series of longer duration laser firings through the beam control/fire system. Rinn said in a statement, "Once we complete those tests, we will begin demonstrating the entire weapon system in flight. The team is meeting its commitment to deliver this transformational directed-energy weapon system in the near term."

The first test of the high-power laser for the ABL system was conducted in 2005 at the System Integration Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base. The Boeing ABL system was declared ready for flight tests in 2006. The ABL is installed aboard a modified Boeing 747-400F. The ground tests conducted at the time verified the optical alignment of the components that guide the laser to a target among other things. The first in flight test for the ABL was originally slated for 2008, that test is now expected to happen in 2009.

Boeing is also working on a very similar project called the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL). The ATL is designed to be used offensively, whereas the ABL is for defensively destroying missiles. Boeing claims that the ATL is capable of supernatural accuracy and can destroy weapons very near bystanders without causing them harm.

The ATL has been fired from aboard the modified C130 gunship it is housed in, but the laser beam was captured by an onboard calorimeter. The ground firing was conducted in May 2008 with further testing to be conducted. The weapon system is claimed to be able to engage and destroy a massive amount of enemy hardware in convoy in only a 26-second engagement.

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By Gzus666 on 12/2/2008 11:42:31 AM , Rating: 0
Does anyone else love frickin' planes with frickin' lasers on their frickin' nose? It's like a dream to see lasers actually becoming weapons. What kid didn't want to see frickin' lasers shooting down frickin' missiles? No more Dr. Evil quotes, I swear.

RE: So...
By Einy0 on 12/2/2008 11:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
Dr. Evil quotes aside... Yes this is insane. Gauss rifle anyone???

RE: So...
By Gzus666 on 12/2/2008 12:00:26 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know why, but I want a penguin with a backpack with dual lasers over the shoulders. Mainly so I could put up a sign that says Danger: Attack Penguin and have the delightful picture of it.

Oh and gauss rifle would use electromagnetic force to propel a projectile, not a laser. Now a laser rifle, oh yea.

RE: So...
By foolsgambit11 on 12/2/2008 2:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, if they used a Linux build for these systems' control computers, I would totally love to see that delightful picture on the box.

RE: So...
By Avitar on 12/2/2008 2:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
Would you settle for a 120mm rail gun? General Dynamics built those for the Abrams tank upgrade M1A3 but the civil servents at DOD, not unreasonably, are requiring the Army find some that survives the encoutering the current M1A2 tank before they buy the upgrades.

RE: So...
By FITCamaro on 12/2/2008 12:16:51 PM , Rating: 3

We're one step closer to building our own Death Star....Sphere o Fear.....Deathticle. Yeah. Deathticle.

Of course the ability to destroy a planet pales in comparison to the power of ignorance.

RE: So...
By Master Kenobi on 12/2/2008 2:03:55 PM , Rating: 2
Slight problem. You can't have the beams intersect and change direction like the Deathstar did. Otherwise, bring on the lasers!

RE: So...
By foolsgambit11 on 12/2/2008 2:30:51 PM , Rating: 5
Oh, sure, maybe you can't.

RE: So...
By Sanity on 12/2/2008 2:35:05 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, if we can built a space station the size of a Death Star, I'm sure we can come up with some gravatational light-bending doohicky.

RE: So...
By JonnyDough on 12/2/2008 10:26:48 PM , Rating: 2
In terms of relative difficulty:

Bending light > building giant space station.

That's only because you can't actually "bend" light. You can maybe affect it's trajectory though.

RE: So...
By ViroMan on 12/2/2008 10:44:53 PM , Rating: 1
How do you know there wasn't a metal alloy glass sphere floating out in front of the death star to collect and focus the beam? Not like your going to see a a glass ball in space.

hell... if you can make a land speeder float above the ground like that, im sure you know a bit about gravity and how to bend/use it, knowing this, you can bend the beams.

RE: So...
By Visual on 12/3/2008 6:59:30 AM , Rating: 2
Don't cross the beams!

RE: So...
By Master Kenobi on 12/3/2008 7:29:46 AM , Rating: 2
Shit! I hate it when I get my schwartz crossed!

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