ABL Succeeds in Full-up Weapons Test

The Boeing-led Airborne Laser industry team announced Monday (Boeing release) that the program has completed the second of its two “knowledge points” scheduled for 2008 in preparation for a live shootdown next year—the first took place in September with firing of the laser aboard the aircraft. Boeing’s ABL Program Director Mike Rinn told reporters on a conference call that the Northrop Grumman-built high energy laser was successfully fired through the entire Lockheed Martin-developed beam control/fire control system for the first time. Two test firings were carried out on Nov. 24 and 25 at Edwards AFB, Calif., where technicians gathered information for the bore sight alignment and sensors by using a range simulator diagnostic system. The laser shots, two one-second firings, were the first time the fully integrated system was demonstrated on board the aircraft at high energy levels, said Rinn. “Now that we know it’s safe and the alignment is good we’ll go through a longer series of engagements” in ground tests through January, Rinn said. Flight testing will resume in the spring, when the ABL will demonstrate the entire system in flight against some instrumented test missiles before progressing to the shootdown of the “foreign missile asset,” he said. The ABL program has received praise from Air Combat Command boss Gen. John Corley; however, Rinn acknowledged that it faces a tough fight in the current budget environment. The YAL-1 will likely fly through a series of envelope expansion exercises and, if the Missile Defense Agency deems it appropriate, the program will work through a series of “expanded mission testing”—such as potential application in a cruise missile defense role. He emphasized that as of now, the program’s primary focus remains boost phase missile defense. Cruise missile defense “is not a part of the mainline design, but it is work that the contractor has done to look at the gaps,” Rinn said. (Northrop Grumman release; Lockheed Martin release)