Game Changer

February 12, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

Late last night, the Airborne Laser (ABL), now called the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB), a Boeing-747 modified to carry a chemical based megawatt laser weapon system, successfully intercepted and destroyed two short-range ballistic missiles, one liquid fueled Scud like missile and one solid fueled U.S. target, off the Ventura coast of California at Point Mugu Air Station, the first one at 11:44PM EST, and the second an hour later. The ABL used speed of light lasers with multiple beams to target, track, intercept and destroy the ballistic missiles within seconds during the boost phase of the ballistic missiles’ flights.

These intercepts by a laser on an air based platform are a historic technical and engineering revolution. It is a technological game changer that gives the United States a real proven capability that is air mobile, can target, track and intercept multiple targets in seconds, cost efficient and reusable. There are no other proven systems in the world today or in the foreseable future that can shoot down boosting ballistic missiles. The United States leads the world on this game-changing technology

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had cut the ABL program from the FY2010 Missile Defense Budget. The FY2011 budget request released on Monday, February 1st adds $99 million into an ABL legacy program called Directed Energy Research (DER). This program calls for continued development and testing of airborne laser technologies in experiments and test bed formats, taking the system out of weapon development. Since the early 1990s the United States has invested around $5 Billion in the ABL to make it a defensive weapon system. The ABL is similar in some ways to the development of  the Joint Stars 707 aircraft that was thrust into the Iraq war as a test bed version and has become a tremendously useful military asset that is deployed in numbers today, providing sophisticated surveillance and tracking on the ground from the air.

The ABL is initially proven and should continue to be developed, tested and even deployed if necessary. The successful test last night on February, 11th gives weight to last week’s release of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review endorsement of Missile Defense development by the President and the Secretary of Defense who have recognized the quantitative and qualitative threat to our nation, allies and deployed forces from ballistic missiles. Furthermore, in lieu of Iran’s recent and continued nuclear developments, the ability of our Military to use the ABL with US air superiority to engage and destroy multiple Iranian missiles in seconds over Iran could be a critical asset if in the future a situation arose between Iran and the United States. This capability would have similar relevancy for the United States in the Korean Peninsula in regards to North Korea’s ballistic missile threats and nuclear capability.

The ABL should be given priority, further development and funding to be kept a fully viable defensive weapon system and a credible hedge against ballistic missile threats. The U.S. Congress will inevitably challenge the Department of Defense and the Administration to fully fund and further develop this system to have the ability to deploy in crisis regions providing our armed forces and allies necessary protection.

Those responsible for this historic achievement and revolution, which has taken close to a decade or more of research and engineering development from the Department of Defense and the civilian industrial base, are to be congratulated and greatly appreciated for making our nation and the world a safer place. Through their remarkable revolutionary breakthrough the ABL and the ALTB will lead to an eventual capability that may one day eliminate the threat of ballistic missiles.

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