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Feature Story

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ALTB's final flight

The Airborne Laser Test Bed


The Airborne Laser Test Bed proved that a directed energy weapon could be used to intercept missiles in their boost phase of flight. The program charted a path for a new generation of high-energy, ultra-precision, directed energy weaponry.

The final flight of the Boeing 747-400, the platform for the history-making Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) program, was a time of mixed emotion.

"It’s a sad day, but I’ve been telling people it’s a reflective day as well," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Warmka, ALTB Combined Test Force director. "It doesn’t come without great pride, because we know the great things this program has done and we know what we did will benefit the nation in the future."

ALTB served for many years as the premier platform for directed-energy research related to missile defense. Over the course of the program’s 15-year history, the Boeing-led team accomplished an unprecedented number of objectives, proving the capability of directed energy for missile defense applications.

Although the historic technological accomplishments of the program are notable, for most of those who supported ALTB, the friendships and relationships formed during this groundbreaking program will leave a lasting impression.