Riki Ellison, Founder and Chairman of the
Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), has commented on the results
of the recent airborne laser test bed missile test out at Point
Mugu, California last week where the laser failed to switch on. Ellison
is one of the foremost lay experts in the field of missile defense in
the world. His comments include the following:
"Last week, in the skies off Point Mugu, California,
a 747 equipped with solid state lasers successfully tracked and
targeted at the speed of light a short-range ballistic missile target
launched from a sea-based barge; however it failed to switch on and
engage its megawatt class lethal chemical laser to destroy the boosting
"This marks the second time out of five attempts to engage the
chemical laser of the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) this year that the
lethal megawatt chemical laser was turned off automatically for safety
reasons or was not switched on when electronically signaled to do so.
The first failure, which was caused by a hardware issue, happened in a
similar test last month while the most recent test failure was caused by
a software issue. Both of these issues are easily solved and do not
create an engineering barrier or block to the further successful
development of the program.
"In February this year, the ALTB had the first three successful
airborne, speed of light laser engagements of solid and liquid fueled
short-range ballistic missile targets. The program remains a precious
technological trail blazer that keeps the United States
well ahead of other nations chasing these similar technologies while
giving our military a functional test bed to leap forward.
"The ALTB remains the world's only airborne, fully operational lethal
laser capable of shooting down ballistic missiles in the boost phase of
flight. The ALTB system has achieved a number of historic engineering
"Unnoticed amongst the general American public, this unique program
has been cut back severely by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the
administration due to the projected affordability of an operational
system. As such the system workforce has been reduced by close to 75
percent over the past year and has been made into a test and risk
reduction platform; losing a significant amount of critical skills,
expertise and knowledge in the subject matter.
"The ALTB funding request of $99 million in 2011 is a very small investment of the overall $8.4 billion
Missile Defense Agency budget request to continue working out glitches
in the system and testing the megawatt class chemical laser at greater
ranges. With greater support this coveted research and development
program offers risk and cost reductions in all directed energy laser
engagements from solid state, electric (diode pumped alkali lasers,
DPALs), and chemical means.
"The U.S. Air Combat Command would like to see the conversion of
these laser systems to smaller, more mobile operational platforms with
multiple uses such as B-1 bombers and C-17 transport planes. Future U.S.
Navy Destroyers and ships are also seen as desired mobile platforms for
some of these same directed energy laser systems.
"In order for the great expectations of laser development to be met,
more testing and research needs to be done. There have been five high
power laser tests conducted this year with a possible sixth before the
end of December. There are currently only two high power laser tests
with a much reduced budget scheduled in 2011."
SOURCE Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance