News

Beam control demonstrator shows Airborne Laser lethality in simulated atmospheric testing

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space News Release PALO ALTO, Calif., July 21, 1998 -- Team ABL -- the U.S. Air Force, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and TRW -- recently completed a successful series of tests at Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif., demonstrating the Airborne Laser (ABL) weapon system will provide lethality consistent with the Air Force's concept of operations when performing in real theater atmospheres. The successful performance of the ABL Beam Control Laboratory Demonstrator (BCLD) answered several critical issues concerning ABL's beam propagation and range performance variability when it is subjected to various levels of real world atmospheric turbulence. "This is one more step in the incremental build and test philosophy of the Airborne Laser weapon system," said Paul Shattuck, ABL program manager for Lockheed Martin. "Our Beam Control risk reduction activities run the gamut of component technology maturation, manufacturing, process validation and predictions of end-to-end system performance. The results from these latest tests validate the tracking, pointing hardware and algorithms approach necessary for the ABL weapon system to perform under real world atmospheric conditions." Tests performed by the BCLD included three different experiment arrangements that correspond to atmospheric field data collected by the Air Force. All experiments conducted by the BCLD demonstrated sufficient ABL performance, thus indicating acceptable range variability for these real theater atmospheres. For the past six years, Team ABL has been predicting the system's performance with a variety of tools. Multi-prong performance validation of these predictions was attained by using the following: * Detailed analytic simulation codes that were anchored to real world and laboratory measurements (i.e., detailed correlation of analytic results and real world observation) * Scaled tracking, pointing and atmospheric compensation that was field tested at MIT/Lincoln Lab Firepond, Mass., and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. * BCLD, which shows ABL capability when using representative beam control system (BCS) arrangement, engagement geometries (range, target and velocities) and atmospheres The BCLD is a tool that will help take the risk out of developing the ABL system. "The BCLD is a replica of the real ABL Beam Control system. It maintains careful scaling of diffraction losses, turbulence effects, and ratio of control to atmosphere bandwidth," said Shattuck. "Although some ABL optics are not present -- for example the ABL telescope -- those that control the high-risk functions are there in scaled fashion. While full system performance of the real ABL BCS is not expected, the functional and operational performances are representative." The BCLD is especially useful for two purposes. First, it anchors analytic codes like ABLWOC (adaptive optics and laser beam propagation predictions) and Pathfinder (platform jitter predictions). Second, it optimizes component and system performance by making parametric measurements where performance changes are measured when a parameter such as optical alignment, fast steering mirror bandwidth, software algorithm, or atmospheric turbulence is changed. "Both of these BCLD uses will maintain our vigorous ABL program to increase fidelity in our performance predictions and to continue a risk buydown program until the demonstration of missile shoot-down in year 2002." said Dr. Ken Billman, the BCS chief scientist. Team ABL's current Program Definition and Risk Reduction (PDRR) contract with the Air Force calls for the team to produce, integrate and flight test the first prototype ABL demonstration system. The contract is scheduled to culminate in 2002 with a boost-phase shoot-down of a theater ballistic missile. An ABL engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) program could begin as early as 2003. The PDRR aircraft will provide the Air Force with a residual operational capability. Team ABL is led by Boeing, which has overall program management and systems integration responsibilities. The company is also developing the ABL battle management system and modifying the 747-400 aircraft. Those efforts will be done at Boeing facilities in Seattle and Wichita, Kan. TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif., is building the laser and the related ground-support subsystem, while Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, Sunnyvale, Calif., is developing the ABL target acquisition and beam control systems. Contact: Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Communications Office Jeffery Adams Phone: (408) 742-7606 E-mail: jeffery.adams@lmco.com Visit the Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Web site: http://lmms.external.lmco.com/ More on Airborne Laser (ABL): http://lmms.external.lmco.com/ Photo (Artwork) of Airborne Laser: http://lmms.external.lmco.com/photos/military_space/airborne_laser/airborne_laser.html