A Plane That Shoots Lasers at Missiles. Or Other Stuff.

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.