June 1, 2008 Boeing and the US Missile Defense Agency completed the first laser activation testing for the Airborne Laser missile defense program. The ABL is a megawatt-class laser weapon system designed to autonomously detect, track and destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight. The tests involved circulating water through the laser to verify its integrity, before circulating chemicals through the laser to confirm sequencing and control.

The laser activation tests ensure that the ABL’s high-energy chemical laser has been properly integrated aboard the aircraft, and that it can produce enough power to destroy a missile. Following the success of the tests, ground firings of the laser can proceed, followed by an airborne intercept of a ballistic missile, scheduled to occur in 2009. The final plumbing and wiring installations will be completed in the coming weeks.

"ABL's weapon system integration team has done a great job preparing the high-energy laser for activation testing, which will ensure each laser subsystem is brought on line sequentially and safely," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Laser installation and the start of laser activation move the program a giant step closer to ABL's missile shoot-down demonstration planned for 2009."