ABL nearing the end of the line?

Danger Room points out that the Airborne Laser, that 747-based anti-missile flying laser cannon, has had over 70% of its 2008 budget slashed.

Though I’ve hoped they could get this thing working, I’ve long wondered about just how valuable it would really prove to be in real-world scenarios. Unless we were pretty sure someone was about to launch, we wouldn’t have planes in position to shoot down anything anyway.

Maybe this sort of thing would be more valuable loitering around a battlefield, prepared to shoot down short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles like the SCUDs in the 1991 Gulf War.

It seems that a large part of the delay, budget problems, and general lack of success is due to the heavy, complex, and hazardous chemical laser. Murdoc’s guess would be that solid-state lasers will soon start catching up, and suddenly a lot of the problems associated with chemical systems go away.

Reminds me of an enlightening discussion about the ABL I had in the comments section of Wizbang a while back. I was told the ABL was “closer than I thought”. Doesn’t seem to have worked out that way.


  1. You know, I’m sorry to see this one go. I am sure that it is premature in terms of deploying lasers – the tech just isn’t there yet. It would be unwieldy, when a wieldy weapon is what you need for this role. But the idea of having a honking big laser in the sky just made me happy. Of course, spending 30% of the money doesn’t seem particularly clever. Perhaps Dfens can explain exactly why a 70% cut is better than a 100% cut in developing a new weapons system.

  2. Not to go all Battlestar Galactica on you. but a 747 with a spinal mounted rail gun would overcome a lot of the problems inherit in this ABL design.

  3. If memory serves, I thought the American version had the ship named ‘Argo’. Anyway, my 747 is nothing like the Argo – no shock cannons and no ability to instantly regenerate armor.

  4. Well, all I will say for now is don’t go hanging crepe on the ABL yet, final mark-ups are still to come and ABL was going to be re-structured anyway (as is/was KEI). Would note that within the past week ABL passively tracked an F-16 in a/b simulating boost phase for a SRBM. – SJS