The ABL concept uses a high power laser to intercept boost-phase
theater ballistic missiles at ranges up to 600 km.
Significantly, nothing in the current land-and sea-based program has global reach and nothing has the range for reliable boost-phase
This is a central legal issue with boost-phase
missile defense in general and is worthy of in-depth legal analysis.
Some analysts argue that in theory, attacking missiles close to the point of launch--as in the proposed boost-phase
interceptor--would require different sensors than those being designed for the SMD.
One approach combining ground-, sea-, and air-based boost-phase
interceptors could be described as the southern or Turkish option.
In addition to EO/IR and SAR reconnaissance, these payloads will perform such tasks as signals intelligence (SIGINT), multi- and hyper-spectral imaging, communications/data relay, SAR foliage penetration, laser designating/range finding, moving-target indicator radar tracking, nuclear/biological/chemical weapons detection, ECM for platform self-protection, environmental sensing, psychological operations and boost-phase
The discussions on the limitations of terminal defense and the difficulties of boost-phase
intercept are particularly relevant.
The Missile Defense Agency is developing a Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a larger, more powerful variant of the SM-3, as a candidate for the boost-phase
defense system that MDA wants to field by 2010, to defeat ICBMs.
The primary boost-phase
program for theater missile defense is the Air Force's ABL program, which had its maiden flight on 18 July 2002.
The ABL team, comprised of prime contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin and TRW, is developing the airborne boost-phase
missile defense system under the direction of the Missile Defense Agency.
The review emphasizes the development of capabilities to intercept missiles at the early, boost-phase
of flight and directs the Department of Defense to explore options to achieve this end, including:
Inhofe was among the senators who sought $ 100 million for rapid development and deployment of boost-phase
missile defense technology, citing rising threats from North Korea.