Air Force News

Airborne laser's primary optical mirror delivered

Released: 19 Apr 1999

PITTSBURGH (AFPN) -- A major milestone was reached recently for the Air Force's airborne laser program when its primary optical mirror was delivered to Contraves Brashear Systems, L.P., in Pittsburgh. The ABL 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 by reaching this milestone, the program is on schedule toward a demonstration in 2003 when the revolutionary weapon system will shoot down a theater ballistic missile.

The mirror, the first of two to be built by Corning Glass, N. Y., will be used to focus the system's laser beam on to its intended target. Contraves Brashear will take approximately a year to polish the mirror to an optical quality required to direct the high-energy laser beam to a target hundreds of kilometers away. This process will be followed by integration and testing on the 747-400F aircraft scheduled to roll-off Boeing's assembly line in Seattle at the end of this year.

The mirror, 62 inches in diameter and 8 inches thick, will be mounted in a turret ball on the front of the modified Boeing aircraft. The turret can be turned to track and engage missiles at extended ranges. The aircraft will house the system's high-energy laser and other beam control elements.

"This event represents another successful milestone in the effort to develop and demonstrate this revolutionary weapon system," said Col. Mike Booen, director of the Airborne Laser System Program Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, N. M. "

Team ABL, comprising Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and TRW, is designing the airborne laser to counter the increasing threat of theater ballistic missiles to U. S. forces deployed overseas. The system, which provides a speed-of-light response to missile attacks, will play a key role in the nation's tiered, multiservice theater missile defense architecture, said officials.

Boeing is responsible for battle management, overall integration of the ABL and attachment of the turret to the nose of the modified 747-400F aircraft. The optics and control of the laser beam that fires through the turret's window are the responsibility of Lockheed Martin. TRW is designing and producing the weapon system's powerful laser.

The program office is a unit of the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.


* Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
* Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.