On the heels of an announcement

by the Russian Defense Ministry that Moscow’s newest ICBM, the Topol-M,
can avoid ballistic missile defenses “of any state,” U.S. defense
have released new information about American efforts to build a better
anti-ballistic missile system.

A project known as the
“Airborne Laser,”

or ABL, has been under

development since 1996, when Boeing, TRW and Lockheed Martin won a $1.1
billion contract to “design and test” an airborne anti-ballistic missile
platform using laser technology. In that time, officials said,
substantial progress has been made to build and eventually deploy such a
system by 2007, which could be used to defend the United States from
missile attack, or protect U.S. and allied forces in combat theaters

Bob Smith, a space and communications division spokesman for Boeing,
WorldNetDaily that as of early 1998, “at least 30 nations are known to
have more than 10,000 theater ballistic missiles in their arsenals and
the threat is growing daily.” Several of these countries are also known
to be pursuing development or to have developed nuclear, chemical and
biological capabilities for their missiles, he said.

Smith said the consortium of companies developing the ABL have chosen
Boeing’s 747-400F

model as the airborne platform. He said planners envision an initial
fleet of seven airplanes with rapid deployment capability, so they can
be sent to areas they are most needed in a short time “in order to deter
an enemy from using ballistic missiles against our forces.”

The ABL system is designed to locate, track and destroy missiles
shortly after they have left their launch platforms and before they
enter high altitudes. “Capable of autonomous operation at altitudes
above the clouds, the Airborne Laser will locate and track missiles in
the boost phase of their flight, then accurately point and fire the
laser with such energy that the missiles will be destroyed near their
launch areas.”

Designers have chosen a COIL — Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser
— as the type of
weapon to be used in the project. The laser beam is created by mixing
common chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and iodine carried aboard the
ABL aircraft. It will be aimed by a rotating turret mounted in the nose
of the 747, and Boeing announced Feb. 4 that wind tunnel tests of the
flight platform selected were successful.

Early in the developmental stages of laser weaponry, engineers could
not solve the problem of beam dissipation — the break-up of the laser
beam itself — once it hit the earth’s upper atmosphere. However, after
more years of testing and research, design engineers were not only able
to solve the dissipation problem, but have been able to create a beam
powerful enough to use as a weapon.

TRW built the world’s first high-energy chemical laser for the Air
Force in
1972. Six years later, the company “integrated a high-energy laser with
a beam control system that successfully destroyed missiles in flight,”
according to documents provided to WorldNetDaily. More recently, TRW has
built and
demonstrated the world’s only operating megawatt-class lasers, Alpha and


“The Alpha laser was built for the Air Force under funding from the
Strategic Defense Initiative Organization,” according to TRW. MIRACL,
built for the U.S. Navy, was delivered to the U.S. Army’s High Energy
Laser Systems Test Facility in New Mexico where it was integrated with a
beam control system and also used to destroy test missiles in flight.

“Our team combines the best talents in the three areas critical to
program success — lasers, optics and system integration,” said Paul
Shennum, Boeing vice president and director of the airborne laser joint
program office.

“TRW has a premier capability in designing, building and integrating
megawatt-class lasers and Lockheed has leading-edge approaches to
optical systems that point, stabilize and correct the laser beam to
ensure target destruction,” Shennum said.

Smith said Boeing has extensive experience in integrating complex
systems with an airplane platform through its work on programs such as
the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and the Airborne
Surveillance Testbed (AST). It also has a strong history of successfully
managing large technology programs and weapon systems development, and
is successfully teamed with Lockheed Martin on the F-22 fighter and Tier
Three Minus unmanned aerial vehicle. Lockheed Martin draws on its
extensive work in laser optics and high precision laser-pointing systems
for the Department of Defense.

One Boeing source, who requested anonymity, told WorldNetDaily,
“Ground testing of the laser by TRW was a complete success,” and “well
within the necessary range to be powerful enough to use” in the ABL
platform. In fact, the source said the COIL weapon being utilized in ABL
was effective “up to 300 miles,” giving any potential air force
anti-ballistic missile laser platform plenty of range over most target
areas from a 40,000 feet ceiling.

Unclassified Air Force reports said that flight testing of the ABL
would begin after aircraft procurement, early in 2002. Boeing completed
a series of key wind tunnel tests in January 1998 that confirmed the
design of two components critical to the program — the nose turret that
aims the laser, and the laser exhaust system. Smith said testing “will
culminate in 2002 with the destruction of a missile by the ABL,” and “a
follow-on Engineering Manufacturing and Development/Production (EMD)
effort will then begin in early 2003.” The Air Force ordered its first
747 for the program in January 1998, and Smith said once the tests were
completed, that aircraft would
become part of the Air Force’s operational fleet.

Neither Boeing nor TRW officials commented on the Russian claim that
the new Topol-M is invincible to current anti-ballistic missile (ABM)
defenses, but indicated that the ABL project was designed for “all
theater missile defense applications.”

The military aircraft division of Boeing is managing the project.

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