Airborne Laser: Shooting Down What's Going Up, The

Working Papers

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September 1997

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Future regional conflicts will almost certainly involve politically less stable nations or other regional actors using theater ballistic missiles armed with either nuclear, biological, or chemical warheads. The United States Air Force is attempting to deal with this threat by developing the Airborne Laser (ABL) with the goal of shooting down missiles while they are still under power and before they can release submunitions possibly containing highly toxic biological agents. This paper presents the results of an analysis of this system. It is based solely on information found in the open literature and using the basic physics and engineering involved in transmitting intense laser beams through the atmosphere. The ABL's potential capabilities and possible theaters of operation are discussed at a non-technical level.

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