REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Jan. 4, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- Laser systems built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) for the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser (ABL) continue to post solid progress with the completion of power and duration testing of the megawatt-class chemical laser and delivery of the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL).

The Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) is the world's most powerful directed energy weapon built for an airborne environment. The BILL, a high-power, solid-state laser, is essential to ABL's beam control/fire control system that "steers" COIL's beam as it propagates toward a target at 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light.

Successful COIL tests at the Systems Integration Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., produced the required levels of power and run-time necessary to destroy a missile during its 'boost phase.' The laboratory was built specifically to house the ABL testbed, a discarded Boeing 747-200 fuselage. Almost simultaneously, the Beacon Illuminator Laser was shipped to The Boeing Company's facility in Wichita, Kan., where the BILL will undergo testing and integration onto the ABL YAL-1A flight aircraft.

The BILL's laser beam illuminates a spot on the target missile and measures the distortion caused by turbulence in the air. This information enables a deformable mirror to make compensating corrections to ABL's megawatt-class high energy laser beam. Lockheed Martin will integrate the BILL and a Tracking Illuminator (TILL) within the beam control system for an end-to-end test of ABL's low powered mission payload. The YAL-1A is in Wichita for final aircraft modifications before installation of the COIL and ground and flight testing of the BILL and TILL. This is a major milestone for the program in 2006.

"The progress of the COIL and the BILL show that ABL is meeting its major milestones," said Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "They are excellent examples of Northrop Grumman's proven experience in all classes of high-energy, military lasers. Delivering the BILL, a solid-state laser, constitutes an important step towards the integration of the first ABL aircraft. Completing laboratory tests on the COIL, a chemical laser, moves ABL substantially towards becoming the country's first boost phase defense against a ballistic missile threat," he added.

"We are more convinced than ever that ABL is capable of meeting its military mission of destroying an enemy missile shortly after launch," Livanos continued.

Both COIL's and BILL's beams will travel at the speed of light -- the lightning-fast speed needed to stop a missile while it's still climbing in the Earth's atmosphere. Destroying a missile during boost, before it can deploy its warheads, increases the margin of success.

The ABL program is managed by the Missile Defense Agency and is executed by the U.S. Air Force from Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are working closely with the Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency to develop ABL. Boeing is responsible for developing the ABL battle management system, supplying the modified 747-400 freighter aircraft and overall weapon system integration. Lockheed Martin is developing the beam control/fire control system. Northrop Grumman is providing the complete COIL system and the BILL.

From detection, to tracking, to engagement, Northrop Grumman is bringing its entire suite of expertise to bear on the development of a global layered missile defense capability for our nation, allies and deployed forces.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology, based in Redondo Beach, Calif., has developed high-power, solid-state lasers for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force, the Missile Defense Agency and various other government and commercial enterprises. The sector is a world leader with more than 30 years experience in the development of high-energy lasers, both solid-state and chemical.