Boeing Missile Defense Systems (MDS) has taken delivery of the aircraft for the
Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) program, achieving the first of several key
milestones in the laser gunship effort.
The C-130H transport, which belongs to the US Air Force's 46th Test Wing, was
handed over to Boeing on January 18 in Crestview, Florida, near Eglin Air Force
Base. Boeing is modifying the aircraft to enable it to carry a high-energy
chemical laser and battle management and beam control subsystems.
Boeing will begin flight testing the aircraft this summer with all subsystems on
board except the high-energy laser. A low-power surrogate laser will stand in
for the kilowatt-class, high-energy laser.
The high-energy laser is being built in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is
scheduled to achieve "first light" in ground tests this summer. By 2007, Boeing
will install the device on the aircraft and fire it in-flight at
mission-representative ground targets to demonstrate the military utility of
high-energy lasers. The laser will be fired through an existing 50-inch-diameter
hole in the aircraft's belly.
Boeing is developing the Advanced Tactical Laser for the US Defense Department
through an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program. Following
the 2007 tests, it is anticipated that DOD will approve starting ATL's
ATL can produce both lethal and non-lethal effects, supporting missions on the
battlefield and in urban operations. It can destroy, damage or disable targets
with little to no collateral damage. As a directed energy weapon, the Advanced
Tactical Laser is complementary to the Airborne Laser (ABL), which Boeing is
developing for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to destroy ballistic missiles in
their boost phase of flight. ABL consists of a megawatt-class chemical laser
mounted on a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft.
Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser industry team includes L-3
Communications/Brasher, which made the turret for the laser, and HYTEC
Incorporated, which made various structural elements of the weapon system.
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