Air Force Tests Huge Airborne Laser Gun

An aircraft-mounted laser designed to shoot down missiles has been fired for the first time in a ground test aboard the jet, prime contractor Boeing Co. said.

The test of the high-energy chemical laser was conducted Sunday by the contractors and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the company said.

"The program remains on track to reach the missile shoot-down demonstration planned for 2009," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

• Click here for's Patents and Innovation Center.

The laser is in the back half of a Boeing 747-400F jumbo jet. Subsequent tests will increase duration and power before the beam is sent through a fire control system to a turret mounted in the nose of the aircraft.

Ground firings will be followed by flight tests of the system, which is intended to be capable of destroying all classes of ballistic missiles in the boost phase of flight.

The laser was designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corp. Lockheed Martin Corp. developed the beam control-fire control system, and Boeing provided the battle management system.

Last month, Boeing conducted a ground test of a laser mounted aboard a C-130H aircraft at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft is intended for use against ground targets.