The star-crossed Airborne Laser program could be headed for a big funding cut, and maybe even elimination, Aviation Week reports.Since the 80's, the U.S. military has toyed with putting a chemical laser on board a commercial jumbo jet, and using that plane to defend against enemy missile attacks. But putting that idea into action has been beyond difficult. Keeping the Airborne Laser's weight down has been a big, fat challenge -- especially with 1,200 gallons of chemicals needed to fire the laser. Test flights have been pushed back, over and over again.Now, Aviation Week says, the Defense Department is looking to restructure the program, and pare back its budget. Nearly $600 million is supposed to be poured into the Airborne Laser this fiscal year."The option of cancelling the program outright" has been raised by Pentagon planners. But the "prevailing view," so far, is to keep the Airborne Laser's near-term work intact, and scale back more future-facing efforts.As Aviation Week notes, "The Pentagon has already awarded Boeing a contact for design work on a second 747-400F that would be converted into a laser carrier. But the actual aircraft order may be delayed."
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