for the Airborne Laser
program being conducted by the USAF
, and Boeing
. The goal of the project
is to build an airborne laser
platform for shooting down theater ballistic missiles
during their boost phase
According to the project webpage (www.airbornelaser.com):
High-energy chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) carried aboard a
modified Boeing 747-400F freighter. Capable of autonomous operation at
altitudes above the clouds, 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. The
Air Force envisions a fleet of seven ABL aircraft, rapidly deployable
anywhere around the globe to provide a strong deterrent to any potential
use of theater ballistic missiles.
The program article is a modified 747-400 freighter. Internally, it carries sixteen COIL (Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser) Flight-weighted Laser Modules (FLMs) which combine to produce the beam. The modules are located in the tail. The beam is projected through an optical turret in the nose of the aircraft. Adaptive optics give the beam the multi-hundred mile range required.
The first aircraft has arrived at Boeing Witchita for the start of modifications as of Jan 22 2000. Large parts of the optical turret system have been delivered by TRW and others. FLMs have been tested at up to 110% of rated power in static tests.
The first ABL
should be completed by the end of 2000 or beginning of 2001. It is scheduled to engage in live-fire airborne
tests beginning in 2003, including tracking
and shooting down missiles
. Production of seven units is schedule for 2005-2008.