Air Force Research Laboratory, Office of Public Affairs
3550 Aberdeen Avenue S.E., Kirtland AFB, NM 87117-5776
(505) 846-1911; Fax (505) 846-0423

Airborne Laser Passes Design Milestone

May 4, 1998
CONTACT: Rich Garcia
PHONE: (505) 846-1911

SEATTLE, Wash.. – Following a week-long intensive review of the program here, the Air Force has notified the Boeing Company to proceed with work on the Airborne Laser. This is the service’s high-priority program to build a laser-carrying aircraft capable of destroying Scud-like missiles shortly after being launched.

Program officials note that with the completion of this successful preliminary design review, the program is on schedule toward a demonstration in 2002 when the revolutionary weapons system will shoot down a theater ballistic missile.

Also known as the YAL-1A Attack Laser, the system is being built by an Air Force and industry team led by Boeing Information Space & Defense Systems here. The other industry partners are TRW Space & Electronics of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space of Sunnyvale, Calif.

"The Air Force, Boeing, TRW, and Lockheed Martin have forged a tremendous partnership," explains Col. Mike Booen, director of the Airborne Laser System Program Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. "We’re exactly on track a year and a half into our six-year design schedule – a good-news story for acquisition reform initiatives."

Booen adds, "Team ABL has cleared its first major hurdle and is charging hard toward our critical design review set for the summer of 1999."

Key to the success of the program thus far, according to program officials, is a computerized design software called CATIA for Computer-Aided Three-dimentional Interactive Application. This was the same software that was used to help design the Air Force’s next-generation F-22 fighter and Boeing’s 777 airliner.

Under CATIA, each Airborne Laser component was loaded into a central design system that showed where equipment from one subsystem could interfere with other systems. By identifying potential trouble spots early in the design process, alternatives could be chosen early in the design, saving time and money that in the past would often impact the design cost and development schedule.

In November 1996, the Air Force awarded a $1.1 billion contract to Boeing to build the prototype for the YAL-1A Attack Laser. Following a missile shoot-down demonstration in 2002, a $4.5 billion contract is expected to be awarded that will result in a seven-aircraft fleet by 2008.