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USAF Teams With Industry To Develop Laser Guns For Jet Fighters

The first Airborne Laser (ABL), a highly altered Boeing 747-400 series freighter, is ready for airworthiness testing following a 2-1/2 -year modification program at Boeing’s Wichita, Kan., facility. Shown here where the modification work was done, complete with its distinctive 11,500-pound nose turret, the aircraft will be tested to prove it can still fly like a 747 despite the structural changes. Once those tests are completed this summer, the aircraft will be flown to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where its megawatt-class laser system and unique optical components will be installed and tested. The testing is scheduled to culminate with the shootdown of a ballistic missile in December 2004.
Kirtland AFB - June 5, 2002
Exploring the feasibility of using high-energy lasers on fighter aircraft is the aim of an agreement signed Friday (May 31) between the Air Force Research Laboratory here and Lockheed Martin of Fort Worth, Texas.

Under a Cooperative Research And Development Agreement, or CRADA, the laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate and Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics Company will pool their resources.

The Air Force laboratory will contribute its expertise in high-energy lasers, laser beam-control technology and laser vulnerability data. Lockheed Martin will use the Air Force's information and examine the integration and optimum performance of high-energy lasers and beam-control technology on various fighter aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The company will also assess the military value and potential of lasers on tactical platforms and evaluate related aero-optic issues.

Both organizations are expected to benefit from the cooperative effort and information transfer. The directorate will get insight into the Joint Strike Fighter and other Lockheed Martin platforms to better determine how to apply future research to operational systems that benefit the warfighter.

Lockheed Martin will get better technical information on high-energy lasers and beam control systems that will help the company design better weapons systems for its aircraft. The overall cooperative effort is expected to advance and further the development of high-energy lasers aboard tactical aircraft.

The laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate is building on past accomplishments. Its scientists invented the chemical laser that is being used on the Airborne Laser, a Boeing 747-400 series jumbo jet aircraft, under development, that will use a laser to destroy ballistic missiles shortly after being launched while still in powered flight.

The directorate is also providing technical support to the Airborne Laser program. In the early 1980s, the directorate demonstrated that a modified Boeing 707 laser-armed aircraft could destroy targets in the air.

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Directed Energy Directorate at USAF
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Laser Team Fires Up The Ray Gun
Los Angeles - Apr 30, 2002
The Air Force's Airborne Laser (ABL) team successfully completed test-firings of the first flight laser module (LM-1) in March. The firings produced record power levels of 118 percent of the laser's designed power output and exceeded the power requirements of the ABL mission.