The Boeing-led Airborne Laser (ABL) team is in talks with the US Navy over the collection of missile-tracking data using Northrop Grumman F-14Ds equipped with infra-red search and track (IRST) systems.

The YA-1A laser platform, a converted Boeing 747-400F, will be fitted with six Lockheed Martin IRST sensors which are virtually identical to those fitted to the F-14D. The IRSTs form part of the surveillance subsystem which provides 360í coverage as the aircraft "watches" for ballistic-missile launches. The ABL team, consisting of the US Air Force, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and TRW, made the approach following the USN's earlier successful trials with the F-14Ds, which were used as early-warning sensors during theatre-missile defence exercises.

Two IRSTs will be mounted either side of the nose, two more will be located above the leading edge of the wing, and the remaining two aft of the trailing edge.

The aircraft will also be fitted with an active laser-ranging system based on the Lockheed Martin AAQ-14 LANTIRN targeting pod. The pod will be mounted on the aft upper section of the 747's hump. "We've just turned it vertical so that the roll cylinder becomes an azimuth rotating device," says Boeing ABL battle management command, control, communications, computers and intelligence team leader, Richard Flanders. "The sensor manager will gather IRST data to produce a track, then we use the laser ranger to find the target."

Source: Flight International