Thursday, August 13, 2009

Northrop Grumman-Developed Beacon Illuminator Laser Proves Reliability in Airborne Laser Ground, Air Tests

Northrop Grumman-Developed Beacon Illuminator Laser Proves Reliability in Airborne Laser Ground, Air Tests
Aug 13, 2009

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - Much of the story about the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser (ABL) so far has centered on the missile-killing "big laser," which continues to garner attention whenever it's fired.

Behind the scenes, though, the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL),
one of the low-power lasers onboard the ABL aircraft, has been a steady
and reliable, if unsung, contributor to the directed energy weapon
system's performance during ground-based and in-flight tests. As part
of ABL's targeting system, BILL has been fired 282 times during recent
high-power tests, 49 of which occurred in flight.

This kilowatt-class, illuminator laser is used to measure
atmospheric conditions, a critical task that allows compensation for
atmospheric turbulence by the beam control / fire control system that
points and focuses the high-energy laser's beam on its target with
pinpoint accuracy.

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) designed and developed
both the solid-state or electrically powered BILL and the
megawatt-class, high-energy chemical laser on ABL.

"BILL helps solve the problem of a laser beam traversing the
turbulent atmosphere between the jet aircraft and the target in
flight," said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts - Space
and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems
sector. "Due in part to BILL, ABL focused a surrogate high-energy laser
on a boosting target, showing the incredible precision and maturity of
the weapon system's technology."

According to Northrop Grumman ABL Program Manager Guy Renard,
"Key to BILL's success has been its ability to maintain consistent
power levels throughout ground and in-flight testing. Such stellar
performance gives us very high confidence that we have made great
strides toward reducing certain risks associated with this
revolutionary directed energy weapon system."

The Boeing Company is prime contractor and overall systems
integrator for ABL. Lockheed Martin provides the beam control / fire
control system.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security
company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products,
and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems,
shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial
customers worldwide.

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