The Missile Defense Agency is dismantling the Airborne Laser Test Bed for permanent storage now that the Defense Department has terminated experiments with it. An MDA representative told the Daily Report that the agency is assessing the disposition of the test bed’s assets. DOD invested more than $5 billion in the modified 747, which was designed to shoot down boosting ballistic missiles via a high-powered chemical laser shot out of a nose turret. Despite debate over its operational concept, cost, and employment limitations, ALTB succeeded in shooting down a solid-fueled missile and a liquid-fueled missile during tests in February 2010. Through those experiments, the agency said it gained critical insights to help it in the design of future concepts. In December, MDA Director Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly said a new generation of anti-missile lasers would have to pack much more power in smaller packages than ALTB, and would have to operate at higher altitudes. MDA believes it is “very close” to having a prototype that will operate off of an “unattended air vehicle” at very high altitudes, he said. (ALTB fact sheet) (See also What’s Next for Airborne Laser from Air Force Magazine’s archives.)
An Air Force C-17 transport jet recently tested a new technology that could help aviators stay on course even if the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) that much of modern-day aviation relies on is compromised.