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, USA. Northrop Grumman Corporation built the megawatt-class laser, the most powerful directed energy weapon ever developed for airborne use.

Airbore laser firing test

Called “first light,” the 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 aboard the ABL aircraft followed a recent series of activation tests.

Future firings with a longer duration are planned as ground testing. They 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 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 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, and the battle management system, provided by the ABL prime contractor, The Boeing Company.

Mick Gladwin

Source Photo Credit- DoD