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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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RE: So how many do we need?
By Sanity on 12/2/2008 1:03:25 PM , Rating: 1
Definately many more for the Russian missels.

These should also be deployed on all aircraft carriers, and whatever other navel vessels have the room and power to opperate them. Talk about on board defense.

Were these ruled out of being deployed in space? Too expensive?

RE: So how many do we need?
By Master Kenobi on 12/2/2008 2:08:39 PM , Rating: 2
Theres a treaty on the books for no militarization of space, but with current outlooks that might change. These can be put into space without too much additional effort, Ion Cannons here we come!

RE: So how many do we need?
By foolsgambit11 on 12/2/2008 2:51:43 PM , Rating: 3
It's not that there's absolutely no militarization of space. Article IV of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies controls military action in space:
States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.
You can see, governments can't place nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in space. That doesn't prohibit defensive, non-WMD weapons in orbit. The second paragraph solely limits activities which can take place on the surface of celestial bodies, and places no limits on the use of open space. So that doesn't prohibit laser satellites, either.

There could also be an argument made that the treaty would not just allow, but would in fact promote a defensive missile shield. Article III states,
States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding.
The 'in the interest of maintaining international peace' part could be a strong justification for stationing defensive anti-missile weapons in space. The key would be ensuring that the defensive capability isn't used to allow offensive actions taken with impunity. For instance, if the U.S. has a missile shield, they could launch their own missiles on foreign targets with no fear of reciprocity. In that case, the defensive shield would not be 'in the interest of maintaining international peace'. But if it were used by the U.S. to, for instance, keep India and Pakistan from launching nuclear missiles at each other (in addition to keeping the U.S. secure from attack), then it would certainly be a use promoted by the Space Treaty.

So there.

RE: So how many do we need?
By Icewind31 on 12/2/2008 11:49:15 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone else noticing this is Tom Clancy EndWar coming to life?... oil shortages... laser defense systems... Canada watch out... the Russians are going to get you!

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