Japan has expressed interest in the US Air Force’s 747-based Airborne Laser (ABL) for boost-phase ballistic-missile defence, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems chief executive James Albaugh revealed. Boeing’s YAL-1A prototype is now in flight testing, with a critical shoot-down test planned for 2008.

Confirming Japan’s interest, Boeing Air Force Systems’ president George Muellner says the high-power laser weapon offers an answer to the threat posed by a ballistic missile launched from North Korea on a short, depressed-angle flight. “They need to get it in the boost phase, and only ABL can do that,” he says.

Having begun flight testing of the modified 747 and achieved ground-based “first light” of the megawatt-class laser, Boeing is working towards integration of the megawatt-class chemical laser in the YAL-1A for a delayed first shoot-down test in 2008. The USAF has just bought a second 747-400F for modification, and plans an eventual operational fleet of seven aircraft.

Source: Flight International