Boeing’s Airborne Laser program director is optimistic that the boost-phase anti-missile system could complete a successful shootdown next year, but he’d like to see more movement on the program’s second aircraft. “Right now, we don’t have visibility and detail” in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 budget request, Mike Rinn told reporters at a roundtable March 25 (see above). While the Missile Defense Agency would like to spend $15.8 million in Fiscal 2009 for trade studies and early system engineering for the second aircraft, there is no detail on the funding for it in the later years in the associated five-year spending plan that accompanies the Fiscal 2009 request, he said. Rinn said he hopes that ABL will get the nod to proceed with the second airframe shortly after a successful shootdown next summer. “We think it’s incredibly important to keep that time gap at a minimum,” he said, emphasizing the importance of cost and technical advantages of moving ahead as soon as possible. Speaking with the Daily Report after the briefing, Rinn was sanguine about the program’s future. “Getting to shootdown … is key to the future of ABL,” he said. The ABL is capable of hitting a target, but this capability needs to be definitively demonstrated if Congress is going to continue support, Rinn said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.