Laser Gunship Zaps Target

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It's interesting that this should come out now because I was just talking to Ward after his glorious showing on Fox News Channel where he discussed the airborne laser program that I thought the real leap in this arena was with the tactical laser being incorporated onto a C-130.

Well, it turns out, the program office just had another successful test of the system, this time running through all the components of the laser generating device, through its targeting system and onto a target.

Sure, the test was on the ground, but come on, it's a laser gun for crying out loud. Looks like the Boeing team that's running this show put the whole kit and kaboodle on the airplane and basically ran through an entire firing procedure without being actually in the air.

From Boeing:

During the test Aug. 7 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., the ATL aircraft, a C-130H, fired its high-energy chemical laser through its beam control system. The beam control system acquired a ground target and guided the laser beam to the target, as directed by ATL's battle management system. The laser passes through a rotating turret on the aircraft's belly.

"By firing the laser through the beam control system for the first time, the ATL team has begun to demonstrate the functionality of the entire weapon system integrated aboard the aircraft," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "This is a major step toward providing the ultra-precision engagement capability that the warfighter needs to dramatically reduce collateral damage."

After conducting additional tests on the ground and in the air, the program will demonstrate ATL's military utility by firing the laser in-flight at mission-representative ground targets later this year.

Again, while the ABL program is interesting based on its scale, the ATL seems to me has many more real-world applications than the ABM one. I'll be interested to see the real capabilities of the ATL system later this year -- how does it deal with enemy personnel and equipment? Are we Star Wars here or Buck Rogers?

-- Christian

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