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(23) In the mid- to late 1970s, America significantly scaled up the power output of chemical lasers. (24) This development led some members of the American and Soviet defense communities to consider lasers an ideal candidate for ballistic missile defense.
That level of performance has already been demonstrated with chemical lasers but the launch platforms were bulky, vulnerable to air defenses, and generally unsuitable for military use.
More recently, advances in chemical lasers, optics, and beam control have led to both the ABL and ATL.
The use of two lasers, including a solid-state laser that measures and helps the ABL adjust for atmospheric changes and a chemical laser that does the actual damage to the enemy missile, means the system is very complicated, though those developing the system say water, dust, or smoke won't interfere with the laser, because the system is designed to operate above the clouds.
Finally, the heart of the system, the megawatt-class chemical laser, fires and heats an area on the missile body sufficiently to cause its structure to fracture under the pressure of the missile's internal fuel and oxidizer load.
The chemical lasers, even those powerful enough to be used for our purposes, have very modest electrical needs.
The American Gas Research Institute in Chicago has created a powerful Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL), capable of unleashing a two million watt beam for over five seconds.
Directed Energy Weapons Market by Application (Defense, Homeland Security), Technology (High Energy Laser, High Power Microwave, Particle Beam), High Energy Laser Systems (Fiber Laser, Free Electron Laser, Solid-State Laser, Chemical Laser), Product (Lethal, Non-Lethal), End User (Ship-based, Land Vehicles, Airborne, Gun-shot) & Geography - Forecast & Analysis to 2015 - 2020
Developed with Rosoboronexportin Russia, the multi-spectral multi-band Manta uses a relatively large but powerful chemical laser supplied by Russian industry, enabling the system to feature closed-loop performances, from classification between IR/non-IR guided missiles to the highest jamming success probability, thanks to a common optical path for tracking and jamming, as well as multi-threat capability and instantaneous assessment of the effectiveness of the countermeasures.
The powerful chemical laser was to make the attempt off the California coast from a modified jumbo jet, and, if successful, the test is expected to renew congressional interest in funding for the flying laser.
(18) On 8 September 2008, the ABL aircraft successfully fired its high-energy chemical laser for the first time during ground testing at Edwards AFB, California.
The ABL will consist of a powerful chemical laser, capable of destroying enemy ballistic missiles during their initial boost phase of flight.