No Need for ABL Clone

According to Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if the Pentagon were to build a second Airborne Laser aircraft today “it would not look like the current ABL,” so it’s time to restart the design work “to figure out what an appropriate directed energy platform airborne looks like.” He told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a June 16 hearing on ballistic missile defense that is why the 2010 defense budget has cut the second ABL aircraft, designed now “to be a clone of the first one,” and relegated the ABL program to research and development status. Missile Defense Agency chief, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, testifying at the same hearing, said the ABL “is on track” for its full-scale live shoot down of a missile in September after having completed some recent preparatory testing. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, appearing with Cartwright and O’Reilly, said that DOD does want to continue with the R&D, including additional tests after the first shootdown. He noted that the current ABL construct makes it “a very expensive capability.” Lynn added, “The technology itself is promising, the operational concept that we had for it is not currently the right one, and the technology isn’t ready for production.”