- 21 April 2009
- Reaction score
| By Amy Butler|
|After nearly 16 years of development and more than $5 billion spent, culminating in a series of ballistic missile target engagements, the Pentagon has finally decided to mothball the Boeing-led 747-400F project known as the Airborne Laser.|
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is now looking toward a new generation of lasers that could operate on unmanned vehicles at very high altitudes owing to advancements in laser technology, power generation and beam control work made possible in part by the foundation laid in the ABL years.
The program was established by the U.S. Air Force in the 1990s with an aim of employing a multi-megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) to burn through the propulsion systems of boosting ballistic missile targets, sending the rockets and their potentially lethal payloads raining back down upon the area from which they were launched.
Despite finally shooting down its first target last year, ABL has cratered under the substantial funding required for its work, cost-prohibitive and improbable employment scenarios and, most recently, pressure on the Pentagon budget resulting from growing national debt............................
MDA Director Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly is now focused on a new generation of laser systems with “much denser capability or greater power lasers in smaller packages and operating at much higher altitudes,” he told a gathering hosted by the Huntsville, Ala., Chamber of Commerce Dec. 12. This, he says, will simplify future designs.
“We do believe we are very close … within a few years of having a prototype that will actually operate out of an unattended air vehicle at very high altitudes,” O’Reilly said. “We basically have a horse race going on between several different technologies [and] all of them are very promising.” He predicts that “we have that capability to achieves something with a very high-altitude UAV over this decade.”