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Update!


The Airborne Laser (ABL) program was killed by the defense secretary in the general slashing of missile defense to reduce the budget of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) by $1.4 billion in 2010. The ABL will turn into a research program. 

The Airborne Laser is now called the "Airborne Laser Test Bed"


UPDATE 2:

The ALTB was officially killed on Feb 16th 2012 and the aircraft will be decommissioned.  The Navy's Free Electron Laser will replace this program.

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL) weapons system is a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. It is primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), similar to the Scud, while in boost phase. The low-power lasers have been test-fired in flight, aimed at an airborne target board. The aircraft was designated YAL-1A in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Airborne Laser Laboratory, a less-powerful prototype installed in a Boeing NKC-135A, shot down several missiles in the 1980s.


Boeing Airborne Laser











The Airborne Laser (ABL) will locate and track missiles in the boost phase of their flight, then accurately point and fire the high-energy laser, destroying enemy missiles near their launch areas.

Capabilities:

* Operates autonomously, above the clouds, outside the range of threat weapons but sufficiently close to enemy territory

* Engages early, destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight over launch area

* Cues and tracks targets, communicating with other joint theater assets for layered defense system


Unique Technology:

* Nose-mounted turret with 1.5m telescope that focuses beams on missile and collects return image and signals

* Beam Control System to acquire and track targets with precision accuracy


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