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Airborne Laser Completes Laser Ground Tests

St. Louis, Missouri – December 12, 2005:   The Boeing-led Airborne Laser project has announced the successful completion of a series of tests involving its high energy laser at the Systems Integration Lab at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. During this test series, lasing duration and power were demonstrated at levels suitable for the destruction of multiple classes of ballistic missiles. This is the second of two "knowledge points" planned for 2005. The success of the so-called "knowledge point" milestones eases pressure on the delayed and cancellation-threatened project.
 
  Airborne Laser's (ABL) megawatt-class Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) is designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corporation. Lasing tests included more than 70 separate lasing events. The laser has been operated at simulated altitude, and achieved steady state operations under full optical control.

Earlier in the year, the ABL team completed the flight testing of the system's passive mission payload at Edwards Air Force Base. During those tests, the team demonstrated the stability and alignment of the two Beam Control and Fire Control optical benches with the turret. That test also demonstrated the system's pointing and vibration control functions, as well as its ability to acquire targets as directed by the battle management segment.

With the completion of the above milestones for 2005, the program now proceeds to integrated systems testing. The ABL YAL-1A aircraft has transitioned to Boeing's Wichita facility to undergo
Military Avionics Systems, Moir
final aircraft modifications for installation of the High Energy Laser modules and to begin Low Power System Integration-Active ground and flight testing. During active testing, the kilowatt-class illuminator lasers will be integrated and tested to demonstrate target acquisition, fine tracking, pointing and atmospheric compensation. Upon completion of active testing, the YAL-1 will return to Edwards Air Force Base for installation of the High Energy Laser, which will be removed from the System Integration Laboratory. This will be followed by extensive weapon systems testing on the aircraft – both ground and flight.
 
Technical Note:  
•   The Airborne Laser is a directed energy weapon for destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase. It consists of a megawatt-class 1.3µm chemical laser placed in a modified Boeing 747-400F freighter aircraft. The laser beam is delivered through a 1.5m telescope mounted in a turret in the nose of the aircraft.
 
Airborne Laser The Airborne Laser aircraft in May 2005, showing the 1.5m telescope in the Nose-Mounted Turret.

Image: Jim Shryne, USAF
•   The beam control optics use a 341-actuator adaptive optics system to correct for atmospheric disturbance between the aircraft and the target. A separate kilowatt-class Beacon Illuminating Laser (BILL) illuminates the target to provide a reference light source for wavefront sensing.
 
•   The $13 billion ABL programme is a key component of the Missile Defense Agency's overall ballistic missile defense architecture. The project began in 1996, and seven operational aircraft are due to be deployed after 2008. The Federation of American Scientists provides a technical summary of the project.
 
Boeing provides the modified aircraft and battle management segments and is the weapon system integrator. ABL partners include Northrop Grumman, which provides the laser segment, as well as the Beacon Illuminator. Northrop Grumman is the world's leading developer of megawatt class COIL lasers. Lockheed Martin is the third partner and provides the beam control / fire control segment which contains state-of-the-art optics for control of the solid state illuminators for tracking and atmospheric compensation as well as the High Energy Laser. Lockheed also provides ABL's flight turret assembly.
 
Full Press Release

© 2006
 
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