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Airborne Laser

The Airborne Laser weapons system is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost stage. Attached to a Boeing 747-400F freighter, it is still in the test period and if proven successful, a fleet of 7 Boeing 747 with ABL system will be operational by 2008.

It is part of the National Missile Defense program.

The system uses a tracking beam to calculate the missile's course and speed. After locking on to the target the weapon class laser will fire a 3 to 5 second burst from a turret located on the nose of the plane, destroying the missile near its launch area.

The laser fired by the weapon is called a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser, or COIL, invented at Phillips Lab in 1977.

There is a lot of doubt about whether such a system will in fact prove to be an effective weapon against ballistic missiles, cf. e.g. the APS report on NMD.