ALBUQUERQUE, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- A potential new laser weapon fired from the air to a ground target went through a successful test over White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Boeing said.
A Boeing spokesman told United Press International the first flight of the Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft was designed primarily as a learning test bed and to demonstrate its feasibility.
The test brings closer to reality fictional movie depictions of laser weapons incinerating or vaporizing targets, but no specifications of the target vehicle or the final outcome of the test were immediately available.
Boeing organized the test jointly with the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 30, the company said.
During the test flight of the ATL aircraft, a C-130H, the ground target was attacked from the air over the missile range. It was the first time that an ATL aircraft demonstrated the high-power laser engagement of a tactically representative target, Boeing said.
The C-130H aircraft took off from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico and fired the chemical laser through its beam control system while in flight.
The beam control system on board homed in on the unoccupied stationary vehicle and guided the laser beam onto it as directed by ATL's battle management system. "The laser beam's energy defeated the vehicle," Boeing said. It offered no description of what happened to the vehicle.
The company called the test a "milestone," adding deployment of a similar weapon could transform future battles and save lives.
Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said ATL would give fighters a "speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability" that could dramatically reduce collateral damage.
The ATL flight follows a June 13 test in which a laser fired from the air for the first time hit a target board on the ground. Additional tests will now follow to further demonstrate the system's military utility, but Boeing says the demonstrations have shown that "ATL works, and works very well."
Research into laser applications in the defense industry has engaged major players and involved other key recent tests.
Northrop Grumman also announced it successfully completed testing of its global positioning system-guided weapons technology at the White Sands Missile Range.
The company's Viper Strike system is equipped with GPS laser guidance accuracy capabilities and is designed to be integrated into Northrop Grumman's Hunter unmanned aircraft system.
In August, Boeing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced they moved closer to developing an airborne high-energy laser weapon that will shoot down an upcoming offensive missile. In the first test over the California High Desert, a high-energy laser was fired from a modified 747-400F into a calorimeter, also on board, to measure the power of the beam.
Once there and while still in flight the ABL Jumbo unleashed its laser striking the calorimeter, allowing experts to determine how much more power will be required to make the weapon effective in combat.
Unlike stealth technology, which began as a passive countermeasure against increasingly advanced detection technology, airborne laser offers both pre-emptive and offensive paths of development, analysts said.