April 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 11 
Integrated Defense Systems


The Boeing-led Airborne Laser program has moved into the next phase of testing to further validate the weapon system as a critical component of a multi-layered ballistic missile defense system.

This testing, including further flight tests and increasingly powerful tests of the laser, follows major ABL milestones "first light" and first flight in late 2004.

Boeing is the prime contractor and systems integrator of the ABL program. ABL places a megawatt-class, high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser, Beam and Fire Control, and Battle Management systems on a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft to detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles in the boost phase of flight. ABL also can pass information on launch site location, target track and predicted impact point to other layers of the global ballistic missile defense system.

Late last year the Boeing-led ABL team, on contract to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, completed a "first light" test, which involved firing a laser beam using the ABL flight-laser modules. The ABL aircraft also conducted its first flight with integrated Battle Management and Beam Control segments.

"Completion of first light and first flight were significant technological achievements in the ABL program; they demonstrated the continued steady progress we've been making," said Scott Fancher, vice president and ABL program manager. "We're proud of the ABL team for overcoming many first-of-a-kind obstacles to get to this point, and we look forward to the deployment of ABL."

Missile Defense Agency Program Director Col. Ellen Pawlikowski of the U.S. Air Force recently explained the importance of the ABL first light event.

"Production of photons of any laser system is a critical milestone by virtue of the fact that it verifies the physics of the design are correct," Pawlikowski said. "This was our verification that, in the design of the six modules, we had the right physics in order to produce the medium required to actually create and sustain a megawatt-class laser beam."

The milestone also represents "completion of the integration and checkouts of the laser," Pawlikowski said.

Data collected from that lasing milestone makes it possible to transition into follow-on test activities, Pawlikowski explained. "We will continue to test the laser, gradually increasing the power level and particularly the duration," she said.

ABL flight tests are planned to continue through 2005. Flight tests are conducted in two parts, with the first series focusing on passive low-power system integration. The second set of flights will exercise the beam control systems to measure the vibration environment and sensor performance.

"This is key because it allows us to check that system in its flight environment, to understand what that flight environment will do and understand how the system behaves as we use the sensors against the target boards that we'll fly against," Pawlikowski said. Target boards are used to simulate targets in a test environment.

Fancher said the year ahead will be busy for the ABL team as work continues on one of the most complex engineering challenges ever undertaken in an aircraft.

"The team is making solid progress in developing this system," he added.

Other ABL partners include Northrop-Grumman, which provides the laser segment, and Lockheed Martin, which provides the beam control/fire control system segment.


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.