ABL 'Still on Track'

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Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, the three major defense contractors for the Airborne Laser (ABL) program, said in a joint statement yesterday they were "grateful" that the full House Armed Services Committee restored some of the money cut from the Airborne Laser program but that the committee's bill, which still reduces the president's budget request by almost half, "would have a significant impact on the program."
ABL with its KC-135 Big Crow Target aircraft at Edwards AFB. (Cleared 07-MDA-2496) (Boeing Photo)
In another joint statement on Tuesday, the companies said the ABL program "remains on track to complete a lethal demonstration in 2009 that will validate the unique contribution ABL can bring to an integrated ballistic missile defense system as a boost phase element." The House Armed Services Committee's (HASC) Strategic Forces subcommittee earlier this week released a markup of a new appropriations bill that would slash $400 million from the $517 million requested for ABL development. The full HASC later restored $150 million to the budget.

The three companies, which have worked together for many years to deliver ABL as a boost phase intercept capability to the Missile Defense Agency and Combatant Commands, said, "We will continue to work with Congress and MDA to achieve full funding for ABL in FY '08."
As part of recent performance testing of the first flight laser module for the Air Force's Airborne Laser system, ABL team members demonstrate the performance of the exhaust system that will remove laser exhaust gases from the 747 aircraft. In the photo, laser technicians at Northrop Grumman's Capistrano Test Site double-check the fittings on the "six pack" of single tube ejectors used by the laser module to "re-pressurize" and remove laser exhaust from the aircraft. The pressure recovery process allows the exhaust to be easily "pushed" out of the aircraft, similar to pushing a rock to the top of a hill and letting it roll down the other side under the force of gravity. Northrop Grumman leads the laser module integration and testing activities as part of Team ABL's $1.4 billion program definition and risk reduction contract with the Air Force, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and the Missile Defense Agency. (Boeing Photo) 
"The laser system fired effectively at full power and full duration during ground testing in 2005," according to the statement. "In 2007, low-power flight tests for the beam control/fire control system will be complete, and the high-power laser integration inside the aircraft will begin. In 2008, we will begin high-power system testing that will culminate in an early 2009 lethal demonstration."

They added, "We stand on the verge of fully demonstrating a revolutionary warfighting capability. ABL technical risk has been substantially reduced as a result of previous investments by both Democratic and Republican administrations and congressional guidance. Given the importance of the boost phase mission and the proximity of demonstrating ABL's capabilities, it would be imprudent to cripple or terminate this program just when we are on the cusp of demonstrating ABL's capability."

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Published: May 2007
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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