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Northrop Grumman - High Energy Laser Aircraft

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Northrop Grumman
: 03 January, 2008  (Technical Article)
Northrop Grumman Achieves Two Milestones Toward Integrating High-Energy Laser With Missile Defense Agency’s Airborne Laser Aircraft
Northrop Grumman Corporation has achieved two milestones that helped prepare the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft for integration of the Northrop Grumman-developed high-energy laser. Both accomplishments contributed to MDA's success in meeting its fifth and final 'Knowledge Point' or milestone for 2007 covering high-power systems integration readiness, continuing recent program progress.

Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector completed inspection and refurbishment of the components and parts that compose the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL), a megawatt-class laser the company designed and built for the ABL program. In conjunction with The Boeing Company, ABL's prime contractor, Northrop Grumman also completed extensive engineering drawings for the installation of the laser. The drawings incorporate streamlined processes and other improvements learned during ground tests concluded in 2005.

'These achievements represent outstanding progress toward providing our nation with a mobile, speed-of-light capability to attack ballistic missiles during their boost phase,' said Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of the company's Space Technology sector.

The accomplishments contributed to the successful completion of all preparations necessary to ready the ABL aircraft and its support systems for the re-assembly of the COIL, the world's most powerful laser built for an airborne environment.

Significant progress on COIL's re-assembly is being made at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., where the aircraft is currently based. The re-assembly will continue into 2008 and will be followed by ground and flight testing of the integrated weapon system, culminating in the shootdown of a boosting ballistic missile planned in 2009.

'The streamlined planning and integration sequence, along with completion and delivery of all parts, will allow Northrop Grumman and Boeing technicians to complete the re-assembly in one third the time originally required to assemble and test the COIL,' noted Dan Wildt, vice president of Directed Energy Systems at Northrop Grumman Space Technology. The initial assembly and ground testing took place in a 747 fuselage within the now-former Systems Integration Laboratory at Edwards AFB.

The Boeing Company provides the modified 747-400F ABL aircraft along with battle management and leads overall systems integration and testing. Northrop Grumman supplies the missile-killing, high-energy laser, as well as the beacon illuminator laser, which is used to measure atmospheric conditions between the aircraft and the target. Lockheed Martin provides the beam control/fire control system, which incorporates the beacon illuminator laser and ABL's other illuminator, the track illuminator laser, which tracks hostile ballistic missiles.
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