The U.S. Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) transitioned from science fiction to directed energy fact Feb. 11, 2010 when it put a lethal amount of 'light on target' to destroy a boosting ballistic missile with a blast of directed energy from COIL – the most powerful laser ever developed for an airborne environment.
As its name states, COIL is a chemical oxygen iodine laser, and is one of two laser systems on ALTB designed and built by Northrop Grumman.
Team ALTB includes The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman provides COIL and the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL), a solid-state laser. Boeing, the team leader, is responsible for weapon system integration and supplies the 747-400F aircraft and BMC4I-battle management, command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. Lockheed Martin supplies the Beam Control/Fire Control system.
COIL's fundamental building block is a laser module. Six of these modules are linked in a series to achieve ALTB's megawatt-class power. Built of advanced, lightweight materials, the laser is designed for simple, safe operations and maintenance.