Boeing announced Tuesday that its advanced tactical laser aircraft on Aug. 30 “defeated” a ground vehicle from the air with its high-power chemical laser weapon during a test with the Air Force at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The company says this was ATL’s first air-to-ground laser engagement of a tactically representative target. “This milestone demonstrates that directed-energy weapon systems will transform the battlespace and save lives by giving warfighters a speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing Missile Defense Systems general manager. ATL is a modified C-130H aircraft that fires a powerful laser beam out of a belly turret. This test occurred less than three months after the ATL successfully fired its laser from the air for the first time. Boeing and the Air Force are in the midst of an extended user evaluation of ATL.
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.