The Missile Defense Agency has spent 16 years and $6 billion to reach this moment: the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) has shot down a short-range ballistic target, demonstrating the lethal potential of 1MW-class chemical laser in-flight for the first time. [Read my full article here.]
Despite the event's significance, the MDA and the Boeing-led industry team made almost no build-up to the first shootdown. There has been no celebratory press conference, and so far neither program managers nor executives are being made available for interviews. The whole thing would still be a secret except for a couple of press releases and a few blob-like photos on the MDA's web site.
Considering the time, money and marketing resources that has sustained the Airborne Laser program since its beginning in 1994, the moment of its triumph is downright anti-climatic. There is perhaps no better reflection of the program's current status, which is a sort of acquisition purgatory. It's no longer a development program, but since last year the ABL is a "testbed", albeit with unclear objectives and long-term funding.