Feeds

US to test missile-killing airborne laser

Military powers up 747-mounted beast

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The US is pressing on with its highly ambitious Airborne Laser (ABL) project - a 747-mounted ballistic missile killer previously slated for possible termination due to the program's "inability to meet cost and schedule targets", as Space.com puts it.

The ABL Boeing 747. Photo: USAFThe joint Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin project - slated at $1.1bn, with $471.6m in the pot for 2006 - will now proceed towards a 2008 full-fat test on a missile target.

The ABL is a three-laser set-up with two low-powered, solid state lasers dedicated to tracking the missile and testing for atmospheric distortion, and the main chemical laser weapon. The whole shooting match is housed in a computer-controlled turret aboard a Boeing 747 which is expected to fly a figure-of-eight pattern over any potential launch site. Once onboard infrared sensors detect a launch, the computer automatically positions the turret at the optimum position for a kill.

The ABL's laser turret. Photo: Lockheed MartinThat's the idea, anyway. This year the programme expects to wrap up ground-based "testing of the solid-state lasers for missile tracking and atmospheric-distortion correction" leading to flight tests before the end of 2006. Boeing vice president and ABL program director Greg Hyslop rather marvellously explained that during the latter "the lasers will be fired at a military NKC-135 aircraft with a picture of a ballistic missile painted on its fuselage".

Quite how much of the budget is being committed to ballistic missile artists is not noted, but the project directors will be hoping the thing goes off with a bang. Despite the lifting of the threat of sudden death, the ABL must still meet certain "knowledge points" which allow the guys paying the bills to keep track of progress, the ABL's overall director, Air Force Colonel John Daniels, explained.

The principal knowledge point will be, naturally, the 2008 missile-busting test, after which the ABL's fate will be decided. It is in direct competition with the Kinetic Energy Interceptor - a missile-based Northrop Grumman Corporation and Raytheon Company collaboration consisting of of a "mobile launcher, an interceptor and a command and control battle management and communication system that is housed in a transportable trailer".

Over at DARPA, meanwhile, they're keeping quiet regarding progress on the High Energy Laser Area Defense System (HELADS) programme, which - as we reported last year - promised to get a 150kW, fridge-sized weapon in the air by 2007. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.