The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has installed a high-energy chemical laser aboard a C-130H aircraft, achieving a key milestone for the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program.
Boeing completed the laser installation Dec. 4 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The laser, including its major subsystem, a 12,000-pound integrated laser module, was moved into place aboard the aircraft and aligned with the previously-installed beam control system, which will direct the laser beam to its target.
With the laser installed, Boeing is set to conduct a series of tests leading up to a demonstration in 2008 in which the program will fire the laser in-flight at mission-representative ground targets to demonstrate the military utility of high-energy lasers. The test team will fire the laser through a rotating turret that extends through the aircraft's belly.
"The installation of the high-energy laser shows that the ATL program continues to make tremendous progress toward giving the warfighter a speed-of-light, precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Next year, we will fire the laser at ground targets, demonstrating the military utility of this transformational directed energy weapon."
Laser buzzword bingo aside this is a big step forward, but its also years later than I would have expected. The ATL is still a chemical laser. Chem Zapzaps are NOT what you want on the battlefield: a little damage and your crew gets dry cleaned. At best. If its a DF laser...*shudders* Solid state lasers, which are making excellent, if slow-ish progress are much more desirable on the battlefield. If it breaks, it breaks: it does kill its crew or the surrounding people. Other soldiers, civvies, etc.