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Boeing, Northrop Test Fire Megawatt Laser

Plane maker and industry partners successfully fired the high-energy, chemical laser, proving that it will be capable of destroying a missile in flight.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Boeing Co., and industry partners including Northrop Grumman Corp., recently fired a high-energy, chemical laser equipped on modified commercial aircraft that can shoot down ballistic missiles.

On Sunday, prime contractor Boeing and its partner Northrop Grumman, which designed and built the megawatt laser for the airborne laser aircraft, successfully fired the laser during a ground testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California -- proving that the laser will be capable of destroying a missile in flight.

Both companies, along with Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp., are expected to provide further details on the ground testing during a conference call Tuesday.

The Missile Defense Agency's airborne laser aircraft is a modified 747-400F freighter, whose back half carries the high-energy laser.

Ground testing will continue throughout the remainder of the year with firings over a longer duration planned. It will be followed by flight test of the entire system.

The Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer says it remains on track to complete an airborne intercept test against a ballistic missile in 2009.

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