Airborne Laser Test Bed
The plan with the Airborne Laser was to catch ballistic missiles in their launch phase, when they're most vulnerable. The ABL, equipped with a "megawatt-class" laser, would fire from that bulbous nose to heat up the side of the missile, weakening it enough to knock it out of commission long before it could reach targets in the U.S. At one point, the Pentagon thought it would build as many as seven ABL aircraft, but in 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the kibosh on plans to build a second plane and consigned YAL-1A to a humbler fate as nothing more than an R&D effort.
October 6, 2012 12:00 PM PDT
Photo by: U.S. Missile Defense Agency
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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