- May 10, 2010
The test of an Airborne Laser, or laser cannon, housed in the nose cone of a Boeing 747, like the one shown here, failed last week when the system was unable to destroy its short-range ballistic missile target, the Missile Defense Agency said.
(Sept. 7) -- A much-anticipated test of a laser cannon deployed on a Boeing jumbo jet failed to blow up a target meant to mimic a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.
The failure, which has not been previously reported, occurred during an exercise that was supposed to demonstrate the laser's ability to shoot down an incoming ballistic missile at a range of over 100 miles. But the weapon prematurely stopped zapping the missile and failed to destroy it.
The test of the Airborne Laser was conducted Sept. 1 at Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off California's central coast. Although the system successfully tracked and struck the short-range ballistic missile target, it did not destroy it as planned, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement provided to AOL News.
"Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to destroy the target missile," the agency said in an e-mailed statement.
The chemical laser is housed in the nose cone of a Boeing 747. The Pentagon had originally planned to buy and field several of these laser-equipped aircraft; but citing technical and operational problems with using such a weapon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates halted those plans, opting instead to use the one weapon already bought for testing the laser technology.
The first shoot-down test of the weapon, conducted earlier this year, was a success. It's unclear what impact last week's failure may have on the program, which still receives tens of millions of dollars in funding.
The second test, which was designed to demonstrate the weapon's capability at ranges twice the distance of the initial test, had been delayed at least four times due to various glitches, including problems with the target missile. At one point, the test was scheduled to take place at the opening of a major missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala., but was delayed due to a software glitch.
The Missile Defense Agency did not publicly announce the rescheduled test, nor did it initially disclose the failure.
Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, said that a statement was prepared after the test and was available in response to questions from the media. "We didn't get any queries till today," he told AOL News.
Test of Ballistic-Missile-Blasting Laser Weapon Fizzles