AIRBORNE LASER 747-400 FREIGHTER MODIFICATIONS PASS HALFWAY
The biggest military modification programme ever at Boeing facilities
in Wichita, Kan., has passed its halfway mark and progress continues
Team ABL, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW and the US Air Force, is
building a revolutionary weapon system that will shoot down Scud-type
ballistic missiles from a modified 747-400 Freighter aircraft. The
Airborne Laser (ABL) will be able to locate and track missiles in
the boost phase of their flight, then accurately point and fire
the laser with such energy that the missiles will be destroyed near
their launch areas.
The aircraft will become the first ABL flying platform upon completion
of the two-year modification effort in 2002 in Wichita. It then
will undergo a complete systems functional check and flight-test
schedule to verify aerodynamic stability and control.
Artists Impression of Airborne Laser
The most visible modification will be the installation of a turret
in the aircraft nose from which a laser beam will emanate to destroy
missiles hundreds of miles away.
Brad Gorsuch, ABL programme manager, Wichita Maintenance and Modification
Centre, said engineering on the project is now 75-percent complete
after two years of work. Modification of the aircraft in Wichita
began in January.
"You can see the nose modification where we will install the
turret in about a year and a half. It is being made by Lockheed
Martin and will weigh about 14,000 pounds."
On the main deck of the airplane in the "46 section,"
work continues on replacing and beefing up the floor beams. In the
lower lobe area below where the laser modules will sit, the frames
are being replaced where the titanium belly skins will attach. The
belly skins, 25 feet long and 12 feet wide, are a major part of
Other work currently being accomplished includes wiring and work
on building a pressure wall to protect the flight crew from the
laser modules and chemical storage.
Gorsuch said the ABL programme is complicated and technical hurdles
are on the horizon, but he is confident they will be solved. "For
the magnitude of the modification involved, we are doing an outstanding
job. We have some schedule issues because of the magnitude of the
work, but we'll work through those and we're going to deliver this
airplane on time in January 2002."
After tests in Wichita, the aircraft will be flown to Edwards Air
Force Base, Calif., for final systems integration and test. Then,
the project will culminate with a missile shoot-down in 2003. The
Air Force envisions a fleet of seven ABL aircraft, rapidly deployable
anywhere around the world.
© «Defence Systems Daily», 20.09.2000