ABL Fire Control System Performs Well in Tests

A Boeing-led industry team has completed a series of flight tests of the fire control system for the Airborne Laser (ABL), the company announced in a news release Aug. 3.

Lockheed Martin is building the fire- and beam-control systems for the ABL, a modified Boeing 747 aircraft that will be equipped with a laser for shooting down enemy missiles in their boost phase. The first missile-intercept test of the ABL is scheduled for 2008.

The recently completed testing demonstrated that the ABL’s laser-pointing, vibration-control and target-acquisition systems are working properly, the press release said.

“Completion of this test phase for the Airborne Laser program further demonstrates the air worthiness and the functionality of the airborne mission payload,” said Patrick Shanahan, Boeing vice president for missile defense systems. “With each testing increment, the ABL team is making steady progress in bringing the ABL into the hands of the warfighter to defend against ballistic missile threats.”

Now that these tests are complete, the aircraft will be moved to a Boeing facility in Wichita, Kansas, where it will be modified to accommodate the rest of the laser system.

MDA Tweaks Missile Shield Deployment Plan for 2005

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) plans to take four of the 10 interceptor rockets that were slated for operational deployment this year at Fort Greely, Alaska, and use them instead for ground-based testing, according to an agency official.

That decision, first reported Aug. 3 by the newsletter Inside Missile Defense, was based on recommendations from review teams in the wake of back-to-back tests late last year and early this year in which interceptors failed to launch, the official said.

The Pentagon had expected to declare the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system operational by the end of 2004, but missed that date and has yet to set a new deadline.

Currently there are six interceptors in silos at Fort Greely, and by the end of 2005 there will be 12, the MDA official said. Those 12 rockets will give the Pentagon “a very good defensive capability,” the MDA official said.

The MDA has two interceptors deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and plans to add 12 more rockets in silos at Fort Greely in 2006, the official said.

Meanwhile, the MDA plans four flight tests of the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system over the next year, with all but the first taking place from Vandenberg, the MDA official said. The first two are booster flight tests with no target launched. The official described the third test as a “radar characterization” test, and the fourth as an intercept.

Senate Confirms Sega as Air Force Undersecretary

The U.S. Senate confirmed Ronald M. Sega to serve as undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force July 29, shortly before adjourning for the month of August.

Sega, who previously served as the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering, replaces Peter B. Teets, who retired in April.