Air Force Tests Laser for Missile Defense
The Air Force said it has successfully conducted its first tests of a laser designed for warplanes to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles, an important first step toward launching an airborne defense system within a decade. A high-energy laser module was tested for the first time June 3. It has been tested at increasing power levels at least twice this week, said Lt. Col. David Harrell, a director of the program at Kirtland Air Force Base. If all goes as planned, the first test-firing of the Attack Laser Aircraft, the only airborne theater ballistic missile defense system in development, is scheduled for 2002. A modified 747 freighter will carry the weapons-class laser, which is expected to be capable of tracking and destroying ballistic missiles in their earliest boost phase.