Thursday, August 20, 2009
US shows off the Boeing 747-400F Air Borne Laser
August 13, 2009
On August 13th the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Chicago-based Boeing International announced a test of their joint Airborne Laser (ABL) missile defense system, which "successfully tracked and hit the mark earlier this month during its first in-flight test against an instrumented target missile."
Employing a modified Boeing 747-400F prototype airplane, on August 10 the Missile Defense Agency had the adapted commercial airliner use infrared sensors against a missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California and "found, tracked, engaged and simulated an intercept with a missile seconds after liftoff. It was the first time the Agency used an 'instrumented' missile to confirm the laser works as expected. Next up this fall will be the first live attempt to bring down a ballistic missile...."
A newspaper from Alabama, the state where the MDA headquarters is based, mentioned that "The news came today [August 13], just a few days before the 12th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference opens next week in Huntsville."
The Wall Street Journal waxed enthusiastic about the advanced missile interceptor test, stating that "Along with space-based weapons, the Airborne Laser is the next defense frontier. The modified Boeing 747 is supposed to send an intense beam of light over hundreds of miles to destroy missiles in the 'boost phase,' before they can release decoys and at a point in their trajectory when they would fall back down on enemy territory....The laser complements the sea- and ground-based missile defenses that keep proving themselves in tests.
"Never has Ronald Reagan's dream of layered missile defenses - Star Wars, for short - been as....close, at least technologically, to becoming realized."
The Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet was launched as a civilian airliner in 1970 and versions of the plane are in use throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. There is no technical reason why 747 commercial airliners cannot be similarly configured to carry Airborne Laser weapons and track and destroy ballistic missiles while camouflaged as strictly civilian passenger planes.
The MDA has revealed that it plans to upgrade Airborne Laser weapons for use against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during their boost phase, thereby giving them a strategic character.
As an increasingly vital component of U.S. and allied worldwide, integrated missile interceptor systems, which as will be seen may advance to more than intercepting other nation's missiles and be capable of destroying them in their silos and launching pads before being fired, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said of its latest Airborne Laser operation that "this test marks the third successful ABL missile engagement in just over two months and the first time laser performance data was collected at the target missile. Plans call for ABL to engage progressively more difficult targets in coming months, culminating with a lethal demonstration against a boosting threat-representative ballistic missile target later this year."
US had an ABL in a Boeing 707 by 1980
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