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Northrop Grumman Delivers Airborne Laser Component
Mar 2003
REDONDO BEACH, Calif., March 10 -- Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Space Technology sector has delivered the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL), a high-power solid-state laser and a key component of the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser (ABL) program.

"Delivery of the kilowatt-class BILL marks an important step forward in the ongoing integration of the first ABL system," said Steve Hixson, Northrop Grumman's ABL program manager. "It also demonstrates the increasing maturity of diode-pumped solid-state lasers for military systems."

ABL will consist of a powerful Northrop Grumman-built chemical laser, capable of destroying enemy ballistic missiles during their initial "boost" phase of flight, mounted in a Boeing 747-400 freighter airplane. The program is an element of the Department of Defense's Ballistic Missile Defense System, which will deploy layered defenses against threat targets in the boost, mid-course and terminal phases of flight. Boeing leads the ABL contractor team that includes Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin under the management of the Missile Defense Agency.

The BILL, part of the ABL beam control/fire control system, is used to measure atmospheric turbulence that would degrade the beam quality of ABL's megawatt-class chemical laser. The BILL's laser beam illuminates a small spot on the target missile and measures the distortion of reflected light caused by turbulence in the air. This information enables a deformable mirror to make compensating corrections to ABL's megawatt-class chemical laser beam. Lockheed Martin will integrate the BILL with the remainder of the ABL beam control system for an end-to-end test of the beam control/fire control system.

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