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Brownback Lauds Successful Airborne Laser Test — Press Release

Brownback Lauds Successful Airborne Laser Test

Congratulates Missile Defense Agency, industry team on successful in-flight test of laser tracking system

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today commented on successful tests of the Airborne Laser tracking system over the weekend. “The ABL continues to make history,” Brownback said. “Last Saturday, for the first time, a boosting missile was tracked by lasers able to compensate for atmospheric conditions and remain locked on target for an extended period of time.”

The Airborne Laser is a modified Boeing 747 that carries laser systems designed to track and destroy ballistic missiles during the early, or boost, stages of flight. The ABL consists of three lasers, a tracking laser, an environmental laser that compensates for atmospheric variables, and a weaponized laser, all working in conjunction to track and destroy missiles in their boost phase. The successful test was conducted this weekend while the plane was in flight and was able to continuously track a launched missile.

Brownback continued, “I want to congratulate the Missile Defense Agency and its industry partners on this test. Every day, their hard work brings us a step closer to having a boost phase defense against ballistic missile threats. Especially with North Korea’s recent provocative behavior, ABL’s progress is more important than ever.”

The Airborne Laser is scheduled to undergo a series of tests this summer, culminating in a full system test to shoot down a missile this fall.

STATEMENT: Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director:

This is the first time in history anyone has actively tracked a boosting missile with a laser while closing atmospheric compensation loops. This was done at significant ranges and for many times longer than would be required to kill the missile had the high-energy laser been used.

Additional missile engagements will fine-tune the pointing accuracy and performance of the system. This significant test is a major step toward conducting this year’s missile-intercept test, which will demonstrate the unprecedented speed, mobility, precision and lethality that ABL could provide to America’s warfighters.

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Navy Continues Laser Investment

The U.S. Navy continues its investments into free electron lasers by awarding Raytheon a $150 million contract to develop a system for them. This follows a similar contract given to Boeing in April. While lasers seem science fiction when it comes to using them as weapons there has been significant research done on several applications.

The most advanced in the U.S. was the Airborne Laser (ABL) system for missile defense made by Boeing. This program was recently canceled by Secretary of Defense Gates. All of the U.S. services have made efforts to build weaponized systems. The Navy makes the most sense as a ship is able to carry the large amount of chemicals needed for that type of laser as well as provide plenty of power.

There should be many more contracts like these in the future.

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Boeing’s Revenue Suffers But Not Due To Defense

Update — When I wrote this originally I misspoke. Lockheed did eke out a slight gain from last year. Part of this was due to a share buyback that reduced the number of shares in circulation.

Boeing reported out their first quarter earnings today and revenue was down about fifty percent. This was mainly due to the reduction in demand for their passenger airplanes. As we discussed earlier there is concern that the proposed changes to the U.S. defense budget by the Obama Administration may negatively affect performance of the company’s defense sector in the future.

Interestingly they are the second of the four major defense contractors to report and like Lockheed Martin did see reduced earnings and revenue. The Seattle Times writes that the customers for airliners are deferring deliveries. The Boeing 777 saw a major drop in the number being constructed while the 787 ramps up to begin deliveries. The airline industry has taken a major beating as the world’s economy declines and this has had a negative effect on Boeing and EADS commercial product lines.

Boeing is hoping that Congress will temper the cuts to their programs included in the FY10 budget. Like in the past when it has continued C-17 production beyond what the Defense Department requested their is a possibility that the F-22, Airborne Laser and the missile defense cuts may not stand. This will probably be one of the ugliest parts of the defense appropriation process.

Boeing has had to reduce their estimate for the full year due to the recent decline in revenue. The company obviously is planning for a down year which is not surprising with the current world economic situation.

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Boeing Releases Video Update on Airborne Laser

The Boeing Company released the 2009 Executive Progress Report for the Airborne Laser (ABL) program. It can be found at their website here.

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