The Airborne Laser - Assessment of a Directed Energy Weapon Project



Jan Stupl, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg

Date and Time

February 13, 2008 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

Justin C. Liszanckie

The Airborne Laser (ABL) is a project undertaken by the U. S. missile defense agency. The basic idea is to install a megawatt class chemical laser into a Boeing 747. This ABL is supposed to patrol in the vicinity of "rogue" states in order to destroy missiles in their boost phase over distances of several hundred kilometres.

In order to achieve this goal, numerous technical obstacles have to be overcome. This talk presents an independent “best case” analysis of the ABL’s technical capabilities. Calculations of missile trajectories are combined with atmospheric physics and structural mechanics calculations. One result is that the laser will not be able to destroy missile warheads for significant distances, but only missile boosters. Warheads will fall short of intended targets and may endanger third parties. Exemplary calculations are presented to narrow down possible impact points.

Jan Stupl
is a doctoral scholar at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Germany. He finished his studies in 2004 with a diploma thesis in laser physics at the University of Jena, Germany. The last three years he has been working on an interdisciplinary PhD thesis on the topic of the effects of potential high energy lasers weapons. His thesis will include physics and political science aspects.

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