Remember that movie Real Genius with Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, William Atherton, and a big ol’ laser? You know, the one that had a bunch of students building a laser that had already been purposed as a stealth weapon?
Well, most of that has come true already.
Boeing has a plane, a 747, that is fitted with a laser cannon – a very, very large laser cannon – that’s purpose is to track large missiles (like country-killing nuclear missiles) and destroy them in the boost phase, protecting the country and being super space cowboy cool at the same time. It’s called the YAL-1 ABL, or Airborne Laser, and it’s a bad mofo, so to speak.
ABL has what is called a COIL laser – “Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser” – packing itself into the Megawatt laser class (if you remember the movie, the kiddies in Real Genius were trying to get 5 megawatts). The ABL basically works like this: it flies around looking for the hot back end of a missile launching, and once the infrared sensors and kilowatt-class helper lasers onboard detect a missile in flight,they track it and search for a fail point. The main laser then fires for three to five seconds until POP – the laser creates a fail point in the missile that causes it to explode in flight.
This is the stuff that movies are made of.
A video of the ABL – get ready for some movie-quality stuff:
Here’s a video of that big, beautiful optic turret:
Images of the Airborne Laser, or ABL:
Check out the series of articles leading up to this post – there are a LOT. Originally it came from Environmental Graffiti, and they got it from a ton of other sources. Here’s the official Boeing page, and a page at the USAF website – also, see info on the COIL laser.