Pentagon Poised for Next Airborne Laser Test

The airborne laser test bed was expected to make its next attempt to shoot down a boosting ballistic missile early Wednesday (East Coast time) off the coast of California, according to Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, Missile Defense Agency director. Back in February, the ALTB (formerly called the Airborne Laser, or ABL) knocked down a Scud missile-type target over the Pacific from a distance of more than 50 miles. This time around, ALTB’s megawatt laser beam will attempt the same feat, but at twice the distance, O’Reilly told defense reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (See our initial coverage.) He said data from the February shots led MDA officials to conclude that “we can operate at twice the range,” although the exact test distances are classified. Some analysis indicates ALTB “might have an even greater range,” he noted. The test bed is a modified 747 aircraft that fires the laser from a nose turret. Stay tuned for updated coverage on Wednesday.