ABL as Anti-SAM Platform?

Boeing has completed the first phase of its study of the Airborne Laser’s capabilities in secondary mission areas, Boeing Airborne Laser (ABL) program director Mike Rinn told reporters March 25, adding that the Pentagon has looked at the numbers and assumptions used in the scenarios. (Also see Boeing Pitches ABL as Multi-Mission Solution) The company rolled out the second phase earlier this year, touching on more scenarios, different types of aircraft, different surface-to-air missiles, altitudes, and angles of attack. In the studies and “preliminary exercises,” Rinn said the aircraft has demonstrated considerable potential in the counter-air and counter surface-to-air missile areas—but would require work and development to optimize the aircraft to those missions, particularly in the acquisition and tracking piece. Gaps would need to be closed with sensors and radar cues, he explained and added, “We are currently optimized to look for a boosting missile.” However, he said, “SAMs have a similar plume to a boosting missile.” And, depending on altitude and ranges, that means the ABL could be configured to target those threats, Rinn said.