Boeing announced yesterday that it successfully defeated a ground target using its Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) aircraft, marking the ship's first air-to-ground, high-power laser engagement. If the news sounds like something out of science-fiction, think again: Boeing has actually mounted a fully-loaded laser cannon on an airplane. This means that the military could potentially have access to a weapon that can annihilate the enemy without the collateral damage caused by rockets and bombs.
"During the test, the C-130H aircraft took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and fired its high-power chemical laser through its beam control system while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M," Boeing announced in this press release. "The beam control system acquired the ground target -- an unoccupied stationary vehicle -- and guided the laser beam to the target, as directed by ATL's battle management system. The laser beam's energy defeated the vehicle."
Boeing said that the ATL team plans to conduct additional tests to demonstrate the weapon's capabilities for the military, showing off its destructive vaporizing power for conduct missions on the battlefield and in urban operations.
Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems' Directed Energy Systems unit, said that the weapon performed extremely well during the test, and that its three main components--the high-energy chemical laser, beam control system and battle manager--worked correctly in unison to provide an effective laser beam.