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US Laser "Raygun" Plane Shoots Down Ballistic Missile
by Staff Writers
Edwards AFB (SPX) Feb 15, 2010

Two Northrop Grumman Lasers Turn Science Fiction Into Fact
Redondo Beach CA (SPX) Feb 15 - The Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) transitioned from science fiction to directed energy fact Feb. 11 when it put a lethal amount of 'light on target' to destroy a boosting ballistic missile with help from a megawatt-class laser developed by Northrop Grumman.

While ballistic missiles like the one ALTB destroyed move at speeds of about 4,000 miles per hour, they are no match for a super-heated, high-energy laser beam racing towards it at 670 million mph. The basketball-sized beam was focused on the foreign military asset, as the missile is called officially, for only a few seconds before a stress fracture developed, causing the target to catastrophically split into multiple pieces.

"This experiment shows the incredible potential for directed energy as a premier element in early or ascent phase missile defense," said Steve Hixson, vice president of Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "The demonstration leaves no doubt whatsoever about ALTB's unprecedented mobility, precision and lethality," he added. Hixson is a former ALTB program manager for the company.

Northrop Grumman executives said the high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser the company provides - the most powerful laser ever developed for an airborne environment - performed reliably once again with other critical capabilities onboard the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's ALTB. This includes the low-power, solid-state Beacon Illuminator Laser for atmospheric compensation, a targeting laser Northrop Grumman also supplies for the ALTB system.

"The continued dependable and consistent performance of both laser systems is the result of our dedicated team and its unwavering commitment to develop game-changing technology for our military forces," said Guy Renard, Northrop Grumman's ALTB program manager. "The impressive progress made by the government and industry team during the last three-and-a-half years could not have culminated any more dramatically than this successful experiment."

The experiment, a proof-of-concept demonstration, was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform.

Northrop Grumman is under contract to The Boeing Company, ALTB's prime contractor, for the two laser systems. The ALTB is a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half holds the high-energy laser. The front section of the aircraft contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, provided by Boeing.

Boeing and industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have successfully demonstrated the speed, precision and breakthrough potential of directed-energy weapons when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) engaged and destroyed a boosting ballistic missile.

This experiment marks the first time a laser weapon has engaged and destroyed an in-flight ballistic missile, and the first time that any system has accomplished it in the missile's boost phase of flight. ALTB has the highest-energy laser ever fired from an aircraft, and is the most powerful mobile laser device in the world.

"The Airborne Laser Testbed team has made history with this experiment," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

"Through its hard work and technical ingenuity, the government-industry team has produced a breakthrough with incredible potential. We look forward to conducting additional research and development to explore what this unique directed-energy system can do."

During the experiment, the aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-400F, took off from Edwards Air Force Base and focused its high-energy laser at the missile target during its boost phase as the aircraft flew over the Western Sea Range off the coast of California.

"We've been saying for some time that the Airborne Laser Testbed would be a pathfinder for directed energy and would expand options for policymakers and warfighters," said Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ALTB program director.

"With this successful experiment, the Airborne Laser Testbed has blazed a path for a new generation of high-energy, ultra-precision weaponry.

"ALTB technology and future directed-energy platforms will transform how the United States defends itself and its friends and allies. Having the capability to precisely project force, in a measured way, at the speed of light, will save lives."

MDA officially recognized directed energy's warfare-changing potential last March, when it awarded its Technology Pioneer Award to three Boeing Airborne Laser Testbed engineers and three of their government and industry teammates for advancing key ALTB technologies.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the Airborne Laser Testbed, which is designed to provide unprecedented speed-of-light capability to intercept all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight.

earlier related report
Lockheed Martin-Built System Aims The Laser
Lockheed Martin repots that the Beam Control/Fire Control system for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully aimed the High Energy Laser beam in an experiment Feb. 11, in which a boosting ballistic missile target was destroyed.

In the lethal demonstration, the directed energy system aboard the modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft engaged and destroyed the threat-representative ballistic missile target shortly after it was launched from a sea-based platform in the Pacific Ocean.

The Lockheed Martin-developed Beam Control/Fire Control system focused and directed the beam generated by the Northrop Grumman-developed megawatt-class High Energy Laser, and the Battle Management System developed by Boeing, Airborne Laser Testbed prime contractor, managed the engagement.

"Shooting down a threat-representative ballistic missile target is the latest in a remarkable series of firsts that the government and industry team has achieved in demonstrating this leading-edge technology," said Doug Graham, advanced programs vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

"This successful experiment validates the effectiveness of this revolutionary technology and makes it the most mature directed energy system in the world, opening the door to further new possibilities for the application of this technology."

"The Beam Control/Fire Control System has performed with outstanding results in the most demanding mission to date," said Mark Johnson, Airborne Laser Testbed program director, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

"The Beam Control/Fire Control System, which consists of a sophisticated suite of optics, low-energy lasers and software, has been rigorously tested in more than 140 flights since 2004, making technology history all along the way as a result the close partnership and dedication of the government and industry team."

The Beam Control/Fire Control System tracks the target, determines range to the target, compensates for atmospheric turbulence and focuses and directs the High Energy Laser beam. Lower-energy lasers - the Track Illuminator Laser and the Beacon Illuminator Laser - determine where to point and focus the High Energy Laser.

The High Energy Laser beam passes through an optical path before exiting through the conformal window on the nose of the aircraft on its way to the target.

The Missile Defense Agency manages the Airborne Laser Testbed (formerly known as the Airborne Laser (ABL)), which is executed by the U.S. Air Force from Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, N.M. The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) provides the modified aircraft and the Battle Management System and is the overall systems integrator.

Boeing's Airborne Laser Testbed industry partners are Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), which supplies the High Energy Laser and the Beacon Illuminator Laser, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., which provides the Beam Control/Fire Control System.

Lockheed Martin is a world leader in systems integration and the development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, including the first operational hit-to-kill missile. The company makes significant contributions to most major U.S. missile defense systems and participates in several global missile defense partnerships.


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In test, US airborne laser shoots down missile: Pentagon
Washington (AFP) Feb 12, 2010
A high-energy laser mounted on a US military aircraft has shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of the weapon, the US Missile Defense Agency said on Friday. The experiment - evoking a scene out of a science fiction film - was carried out off the central California coast at Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center at 8:44 pm Thursday Pacific time (0444 GMT), the agency said ... read more

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