1996, the US Air Force launched the Airborne Laser program for the
destruction of tactical theatre ballistic missiles. The Department of
Defense awarded Boeing for the program management, systems integration,
battle management system and modification of the 747-400F aircraft.
Northrop Grumman responded to the laser systems. The aircraft was
designated YAL-1A. Modification of the aircraft, involving installation
of the turret in the aircraft's nose and modifications to accept the
laser, optics and computer hardware, was completed in 2002. The YAL-1A
took the first of a series of test flights in the same year. In 2004,
the laser beam was successfully fired for the first time.
For the following two years, the laser
program was relegated to a technology demonstration status while a
planned five-aircraft purchase by the Air Force was put on hold.
A high-energy laser was used to intercept a test target in January 2010,
and the following month, successfully destroyed two test missiles.
Funding for the program was cut in 2010,
making the US Air Force to stop raising
funds for the laser.
The program was finally canceled in December 2011.