‘Mini Me’ Version of Airborne Laser?

The Airborne Laser Test Bed is “a remarkable physics experiment, but operationally, it’s a challenge,” says the Pentagon’s top scientist. Because the 747-based ALTB is far too big and complex to be operationally viable, the Defense Department is pursuing smaller-sized lasers—in particular solid-state designs—that would fit onto “much, much smaller platforms” that are more feasible for real-world use, Zachary Lemnios, director of defense research and engineering, told reporters in Washington, D.C., Thursday. “We are going to see tens, if not hundreds, of kilowatts of solid-state lasers in the next six-to-eight months,” he said. Lemnios said the Air Force and DARPA are funding “a number of projects” that use the test bed to validate other high-powered laser concepts. His comments came as preparations are under way for the next ALTB shootdown test, perhaps as soon as Saturday. (For more on ALTB, see What’s Next for the Airborne Laser from the April issue of Air Force Magazine.)