REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Sept. 8, 2008 -- The high-energy laser installed earlier this year on the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft fired successfully Sept. 7 in a ground test at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), under contract to The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA), ABL's prime contractor, designed and built the megawatt-class laser, the most powerful directed energy weapon ever developed for airborne use.
Called "first light," the lasing or test firing proved that the laser is ready to demonstrate power output sufficient to destroy a ballistic missile in flight. The firing of the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) from its permanent home aboard the ABL aircraft followed a recent series of activation tests and once again validated the integration, operation and control of the six laser modules that form the core of the flight laser and their associated optics.
"We're very confident in the ability of the high-energy laser to shoot down multiple missiles from a single platform as part of a directed energy weapon system," said Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology sector. "The ABL team has successfully demonstrated the technology and moved us another significant step closer to shooting down a ballistic missile."
Future firings with longer duration are planned as ground testing continues throughout the remainder of this year. Those will be followed by flight tests of the entire ABL weapon system, culminating in an airborne intercept test against a ballistic missile scheduled for 2009.
"The COIL laser met or exceeded all our predictions based on the laboratory test firings in 2005," said Dan Wildt, vice president of Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "This test was conducted under realistic conditions. The laser fuel was supplied by onboard chemical tanks, and the laser was subjected to atmospheric conditions consistent with those at the altitude at which the aircraft will fly."
The laser was fired into an onboard calorimeter, a test instrument that captures and measures characteristics of the beam. During upcoming ground tests prior to resuming flight, the beam will be sent through the ABL beam control/fire control system and out of the turret mounted on the front-end of the aircraft.
The ABL aircraft consists of a modified Boeing 747-400F whose aft section holds the high-energy laser. The front section of the aircraft contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), and the battle management system, provided by ABL prime contractor The Boeing Company.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.
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