Lockheed Martin announced that the Beam Control/Fire Control system for the US Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) successfully aimed the High Energy Laser beam in an experiment February 11, in which a boosting ballistic missile target was destroyed. In the lethal demonstration, the directed energy system aboard the modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft engaged and destroyed the threat-representative ballistic missile target shortly after it was launched from a sea-based platform in the Pacific Ocean. The Lockheed Martin-developed Beam Control/Fire Control system focused and directed the beam generated by the Northrop Grumman-developed megawatt-class High Energy Laser, and the Battle Management System developed by Boeing, Airborne Laser Test Bed prime contractor, managed the engagement.

“Shooting down a threat-representative ballistic missile target is the latest in a remarkable series of firsts that the government and industry team has achieved in demonstrating this leading-edge technology,” said Doug Graham, Advanced Programs Vice President, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. “This successful experiment validates the effectiveness of this revolutionary technology and makes it the most mature directed energy system in the world, opening the door to further new possibilities for the application of this technology.”

The Beam Control/Fire Control System tracks the target, determines range to the target, compensates for atmospheric turbulence and focuses and directs the High Energy Laser beam. Lower-energy lasers—the Track Illuminator Laser and the Beacon Illuminator Laser—determine where to point and focus the High Energy Laser. The High Energy Laser beam passes through an optical path before exiting through the conformal window on the nose of the aircraft on its way to the target.

The Missile Defense Agency manages the Airborne Laser Test Bed (formerly known as the Airborne Laser (ABL), which is executed by the US Air Force from Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM. The Boeing Co. provides the modified aircraft and the Battle Management System and is the overall systems integrator. Boeing's Airborne Laser Test Bed industry partners are Northrop Grumman, which supplies the High Energy Laser and the Beacon Illuminator Laser, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, CA, which provides the Beam Control/Fire Control System.