Uncertainties Remain Concerning the Airborne Laser's Cost and Military Utility   [open pdf - 469KB]

Letter to Senators Bill Nelson and Daniel Akaka: "In 1996, the Air Force launched an acquisition program to develop and produce a revolutionary laser weapon system, the Airborne Laser (ABL), capable of defeating an enemy ballistic missile during the boost phase of its flight. Over the last 8 years, the program's efforts to develop this technology have resulted in significant cost growth and schedule delays. These events led you to request that we answer the following questions: (1) How much and why has the ABL's cost increased since the program's inception? (2) What is the expected military utility of the initial ABL aircraft? (3) What support systems will be required when the ABL is fielded and what is the likely cost of those systems? (4) Have recent program changes resulted in a more cost effective strategy for developing the weapon? After we began our review, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) refocused the ABL program to pursue a more knowledge-based approach, where program knowledge is demonstrated at critical points in the development cycle. We examined the planned changes to determine whether they will result in a more cost-effective strategy for developing the ABL element. This report summarizes that information and transmits the briefing charts that have been revised to address program changes made by MDA after our presentation to your staff on March 4, 2004."

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Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/
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