Boeing announced on Sept. 1 that it had successfully “defeated a ground target from the air” with the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) aircraft, a C-130 equipped with a high-energy chemical laser. The test potentially ushers in the era of collateral-damage-free “surgical” attacks on enemy targets in urban areas.
The concept: a “Star Wars” version of the Vietnam-era C-130 gunship, with a gimbaled laser weapon that can be directed against individual vehicles, buildings, or other small targets. In this case, the target was a parked vehicle.
From Boeing’s press release:
“During the test, the C-130H aircraft took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and fired its high-power chemical laser through its beam control system while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The beam control system acquired the ground target — an unoccupied stationary vehicle — and guided the laser beam to the target, as directed by ATL’s battle management system. The laser beam’s energy defeated the vehicle.”