A U.S. Air Force C-130 gunship equipped with a low-powered laser has begun flight tests at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Boeing announced in a press release. The laser is a stand-in for a full-powered model designed for use as battlefield prototype which will be installed in the aircraft in 2007.
Formally known as the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), the full-powered device will enable an aircraft to acquire, track, and destroy, damage, or disable enemy targets at the speed of light. The flights, which began on October 10 and are to end this Fall, are part of Boeing's Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program for the ATL funded by the Air Force.
Once installed aboard the C-130, the ATL will generate a laser beam which will be fired from a rotating turret located on the underside of the aircraft. The ATL is designed to allow its operator to select the scale of destruction desired, ranging from disablement to total destruction of the target. The ATL was first fired during a ground test conducted in late September and is expected to engage test targets from the air next year.
Boeing is also continuing work on a separate directed-energy weapon installed aboard a converted 747 under the Air Force's Airborne Laser (ABL) program.
For the press release mentioned above, please see:
For more information on the ABL, please see:
[Edited 2006-10-14 03:31:22]