Boeing Pitches ABL As Multi-Mission Solution

The Obama Administration appears to be headed in these tough economic times toward an austere 2010 defense budget. Reportedly the Pentagon’s missile defense regime—including the YAL-1A Airborne Laser—is in the crosshairs again. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated earlier this week at a Washington defense conference that missile defense is going to get a new focus in the coming years, moving away from weapons and focusing more on multi-mission sensors and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities. No problem, Boeing officials told reporters during a Tuesday briefing. “When [Cartwright] was talking, I thought he was talking to me, I thought he was talking to the ABL team,” said Mike Rinn, Boeing’s vice president and program director for the ABL. “It’s flexible, it’s adaptable, we believe it has multi-mission capability,” he explained and added that the company has conducted internal studies to show that the aircraft has great potential in the counter air- and surface-to-air missile arena. He said, “We believe that it ushers in a whole new era.” In program news, Rinn said the ABL team continues with plans to begin flight testing out of Edwards AFB, Calif., in the coming weeks to test the integrated high energy laser and beam control system all in one. These elements have beentested separately. Later this spring, the ABL team plans to fire up the laser for the first time at high power in the aircraft and begin engaging missiles with low power and testing the atmosphere compensation system in advance of the planned live shoot down—which is on track for August or September, Rinn added.