TLA for the Airborne Laser program being conducted by the USAF, TRW, Lockheed-Martin, 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 (

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.

Current Status

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.

Going Forward

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.
Also a TLA for Armored Box Launcher, referring to the boxy devices on ships that are used to store and fire missiles. In the U.S. and other modern navies, the ABL has mostly been eclipsed by the VLS. For an example, see the second of three photos in the following article at FAS:

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