Don Moore

Airborne Laser Test Delayed…Again

In Aviation, Lasers, Military on August 22, 2010 at 11:35 PM

A scheduled Sunday test of the Airborne Laser, quite possibly the coolest weapon in the defense industry R&D pipeline, has been postponed, TS has learned. This is after another testing delay, a couple days ago on the 18. The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed is essentially a high power chemical laser mounted to the nose of a 747 jet. While originally designed as a weapon meant to shoot down ballistic missiles, the Airborne Laser has since been relegated to a technology development program–one that apparently isn’t working.

The test was set to happened in the wee hours Sunday morning. The Missile Defense Agency, the bureau with control over the project, released this statement on their site today:

The Airborne Laser Test Bed experiment scheduled for Sunday morning is postponed. Trouble shooting indicates that a hot bypass valve on the aircraft is in an abnormal condition thus not allowing for proper component cooling . The team is evaluating the potential causes. A new date for the experiment will be set for the upcoming week.

The statement sounds like something straight out of Gravity’s Rainbow, but in layman’s terms, it means  no laser light show today. These issues helps to underline exactly why the project is now a testing platform (notice the addition of the word “testbed” to the name) rather than a viable weapons platform project. Who knew designing a flying laser capable of destroying supersonic missiles from miles away could be so complicated?


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