We just got word that Boeing's Airborne Laser Team conducted its first successful test in flight August 10 of a ballistic missile intercept using a surrogate death ray.
A Boeing statement sent to Defense Tech indicates the modified 747 went through all the processes to actually down a missile, except for the actual use of a weaponized high energy beam.
During the test, the modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicholas Island, Calif. The Boeing-developed battle management system aboard ABL then issued engagement and target location instructions to the beam control/fire control system, which acquired the target and fired its two solid-state illuminator lasers to track the target and measure atmospheric conditions. ABL then fired a surrogate high-energy laser at the target, simulating a missile intercept. Instrumentation on the target verified that the surrogate high-energy laser hit the target.
The ABL was basically zeroed out of the 2010 defense budget and continues on life support as a quasi R&D program -- which seems like a good idea. It's this kind of testing that can result in battlefield applications of high energy beam technology for destroying ground vehicles, aircraft and IEDs.
The test follows ABL's engagement of two un-instrumented missiles in early June, which allowed the team to fine-tune the engagement sequence.
ABL will now undergo flight tests in which the aircraft will fire its high-energy laser, first into an onboard calorimeter, then through its beam control/fire control system. The ABL team then will test the entire weapon system against in-flight missiles, culminating with ABL's first high-energy laser intercept test against a ballistic missile later this year.
It seems that Boeing's laser weapons continue with success in the shadows of other, bigger, more high-profile (and controversial) programs.