A test at sea near Point Mugu, California on February 11 resulted in the first directed-energy lethal intercept against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic-missile target from an airborne platform.
The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile. The experiment, conducted at Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off the central California coast, serves as a proof-of-concept demonstration for directed energy technology.
This experiment marks the first time a laser weapon has engaged and destroyed an in-flight ballistic missile, and the first time that any system has accomplished it in the missile's boost phase of flight. The ALTB has the highest-energy laser ever fired from an aircraft, and is the most powerful mobile laser device in the world.
"The Airborne Laser Testbed team has made history with this experiment," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Through its hard work and technical ingenuity, the government-industry team has produced a breakthrough with incredible potential. We look forward to conducting additional research and development to explore what this unique directed-energy system can do."
Northrop Grumman designed and built ALTB's high-energy laser, and Lockheed Martin developed the beam control/fire control system. Boeing provided the aircraft, the battle management system and overall systems integration and testing.
"The Beam Control/Fire Control System has performed with outstanding results in the most demanding mission to date," said Mark Johnson, Airborne Laser Testbed program director, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. "The Beam Control/Fire Control System, which consists of a sophisticated suite of optics, low-energy lasers and software, has been rigorously tested in more than 140 flights since 2004, making technology history all along the way as a result the close partnership and dedication of the government and industry team."
The Beam Control/Fire Control System tracks the target, determines range to the target, compensates for atmospheric turbulence and focuses and directs the High Energy Laser beam. Lower-energy lasers -- the Track Illuminator Laser and the Beacon Illuminator Laser -- determine where to point and focus the High Energy Laser. The High Energy Laser beam passes through an optical path before exiting through the conformal window on the nose of the aircraft on its way to the target.