First Airborne Laser aircraft goes for conversion
http://defence-data.com/storypic/abl747.jpg [not image]
24 January 2000
The first Airborne Laser (ABL) flying platform, a 747-400 Freighter, flew into Boeing facilities in Wichita in Kansas on Saturday and will immediately begin 18 months of major modification work by Team ABL. Team ABL (Boeing, Lockheed Martin and TRW) and the Air Force are developing a high-energy chemical oxygen-iodine laser carried aboard a modified Boeing 747-400 Freighter.
YAL-1A Attack Laser,
Over the next 18 months, this Airborne Laser platform will undergo significant changes. The most visible difference will be the installation of a turret in the aircraft nose, from which a beam of laser light will emanate to destroy Scud-like missiles hundreds of miles away.
Additionally, the aircraft will be modified to accept a multi-megawatt-class chemical laser, specialised optics, and computer hardware and software that will allow the aircraft to spot a theatre ballistic missile in its boost phase shortly after being launched, lock onto and destroy it.
The ABL is to be the world's first laser-armed aircraft of the new millennium and a critical component of the Department of Defence's theatre missile defence strategy.
As Team ABL leader, Boeing is responsible for creating the ABL surveillance system; developing the battle management, and command and control system; integrating and testing the weapon system; and supplying the 747-400 Freighter aircraft. Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is building the ABL target-acquisition, fire control and beam control systems. TRW is building the laser and the related ground-support subsystem.
The US Air Force plans to have a fleet of seven ABL aircraft to be ready for rapid deployment within 24 hours to any spot around the globe. The fleet's mission is to deter the use of theatre ballistic missiles. More than 30 nations today are believed to have at their disposal more than 13,000 of those missiles. Many of those countries also are known to have or are developing nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities for their missiles.
During the current $1.3 billion Program Definition and Risk Reduction phase, Team ABL is designing, developing, integrating and testing the ABL weapon system. The effort will culminate with the planned test destruction of Scud-type missiles by the ABL in 2003, providing the U.S. and its allies with emergency defence if needed against theatre ballistic missiles.