The Competition is no longer the ‘guys across the street’
The move to put work in lower-cost countries is a direct response to high labor costs and finding less-expensive places to build parts of planes, Boisture said. “It’s no more complicated than that,” Boisture said. The price of an airplane can’t rise fast enough to cover cost increases, Boisture said. “This is a company whose costs are constantly increasing, and the market is not paying us back at the rate they’re increasing,” Boisture said. In the past, Wichita business jetmakers Cessna, Bombardier Learjet and Hawker Beechcraft primarily competed with one another, so costs were similar. In the future, literally “it’s not going to be the guys across the street,” said Textron’s Donnelly. There’s every reason to believe new competitors will have lower cost structures, he said. In addition, the majority of the orders for business jets are coming from global customers. And that’s expected to grow. “That means we’re building stuff in the wrong place, because we’re going to be selling it, servicing it and delivering it on the other side of the word,” Boisture said. That will take some flexibility to figure out what that means for the companies in the future, he said.
outsourcing is not a “zero-sum game,” Spirit’s Turner said, although it can feel that way in the current down cycle. Spirit has been a big recipient of outsourcing. It’s facilities do work for Boeing, Airbus, Sikorsky, Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft and others. Airbus turned to Spirit because the Wichita company was on its list of low-cost locations, Turner said. On the other hand, Spirit is outsourcing work as well.
“You’re going to see an ebb and flow as time goes on with those supply networks,” as the value of the dollar improves and productivity of sites improve, Turner said. Some things will be done in-house, some not.
With all the projects Spirit has in the works with customers around the world, the Wichita facility can’t do everything, Turner said. “We’d have a terrible time trying to design, build and ship everything out of Wichita,” Turner said. Expectations, needs Long-term, the market will return and grow. Historically, each up cycle has been more robust than the previous one. “We ultimately have a growth industry,” Turner said.
Eventually, the companies will need a trained work force. They’re expecting a labor shortage when the economy turns around. Long-term, Cessna expects Sedgwick County will face a shortage of enough labor to support all its work, Pelton said. Cessna has an aging work force, and the number of employees eligible for retirement over the next 10 years is high, Pelton said. A work force shortage might sound bizarre considering thousands of Wichita workers were laid off in the past year. But a shortage followed the downturn in the early part of the last decade, Turner said. “It’s going to happen.”
Training is vital. Laid-off workers should be receiving stipends so they can get technical training today, Turner said. “It’s the knowledge of our workers that make the difference,” Turner said. There’s no time to train and retrain when the market is booming. The city and state must work to protect aviation jobs in other ways. In a speech at last week’s Wichita Aero Club luncheon, Gov. Mark Parkinson implored members of Wichita’s aircraft industry to keep jobs in Wichita if they can. Parkinson said he recognizes that some states and areas are working hard to woo jobs by offering lucrative incentive packages. But if the incentives from Kansas are even close, he urged them to keep the work here.
Cessna’s Pelton said Parkinson should have added one thing. He should have said that those incentives are a wake-up call for Wichita and for Kansas. Kansas must be sure it can stand on its own and compete.
“It’s not about the state throwing a lot of money at us,” Pelton said. “It’s about having capabilities in place.”
Keeping the aviation industry competitive is a skilled labor force, competitive labor rates and tax policies and treatments that support an industrial climate, he said. School systems must be able to support the industry, and the state must support the National Institute for Aviation Research and the work force training center, Turner added. There are a lot of ingredients, Pelton said. Wichita must be a dynamic place willing to change, Turner said. “This aviation industry is an absolute jewel for Wichita, south-central Kansas and for Kansas,” Turner said. “We ought to have some serious strategies on how to keep it healthy.”
On the seventh anniversary of the Columbia disaster, President Obama unveiled a sweeping change of course for the nation’s space program Monday, putting an end to NASA’s post-Columbia moon program and shifting development and operation of new rockets and capsules from the government to private industry.
Requesting some $19 billion for NASA in fiscal 2011, the administration announced plans to pump an additional $6 billion into NASA’s budget over the next five years to kick-start development of a new commercial manned spaceflight capability, including some $500 million in 2011.
A launch tower being built for the Ares I rocket, part of NASA’s now-canceled Constellation program, stands at the Kennedy Space Center with the program’s target–the moon–visible in the remote distance.
(Credit: CBS News)
Over that same five years, some $7.8 billion will be earmarked for new technology development, including autonomous rendezvous, orbital fuel transfer systems, and closed-loop life support systems. Another $3.1 billion will support development of new propulsion technologies needed by future heavy-lift rockets. And $3 billion will go to pay for a series of robotic missions to the moon and beyond to test systems needed for eventual manned flights.
“Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning out across the inner solar system, exploring the moon, asteroids, and Mars nearly simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told reporters. “And imagine all of this being done collaboratively with nations around the world. That is what the president’s plan for NASA will enable, once we develop the new capabilities to make it a reality.”
No timetables were established for human flights beyond low-Earth orbit, with deputies saying the focus instead will be on enabling technology development and innovation.
As for commercial flights to and from the International Space Station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said she hoped a new private-sector launch system, possibly including modified versions of technology developed for the canceled moon program, could be available by around 2016 if not earlier.
“We will try to accelerate and use the great minds of industry to get a competition going, and I’m sure they’ll want to beat that,” she said.
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, chief architect of the now-canceled moon program, told CBS News the shift to commercial space operations was a profound mistake.
“I’m one of the biggest proponents of commercial spaceflight that there is, but it doesn’t yet exist,” he said. “I would like an enlightened government policy to help bring it about, but I don’t believe you get there by destroying all your government capability so there’s no option but for the government to do whatever necessary to get the ‘commercial operators’ to succeed. That’s not the way to do it.
“Basically, you’re burning the bridge behind you. Even if it’s successful, now what you’ve done is you’ve created not a space program for the United States, you’ve created a capability to get to low-Earth orbit but there’s nothing to do there because there’s no government program,” Griffin said. “Where’s the market?”
Griffin said, “For the U.S. government to deliberately give up its lead in something that is fundamentally an enterprise of governments…for the United States to give up something that’s an important part of our national identity in favor of outsourcing it to commercial enterprises when and as they come into being is bizarre.”
George Bush’s post-Columbia initiative to finish the International Space Station and retire the shuttle by the end of 2010 remains intact, with just five more missions planned for NASA’s iconic winged spaceships. Funding is available to support operations through the end of the year–or early 2011 if necessary.
NASA dims lights for Constellation program (photos)
The new budget also extends operation of the space station through at least 2020 and increases funding for science and utilization.
But as expected, it halts development of the Ares family of rockets and the Orion crew capsules NASA was designing to carry astronauts to the station and back to the moon by the early 2020s as part of the Bush administration’s Constellation program.
The cancellation of Constellation and the near-term shift to commercial launch operations is a “more radical (plan) than I expected,” said John Logsdon, a space policy analyst at George Washington University.
“It represents a fundamental shift in the way NASA goes about doing business, from being the direct designer of our space capabilities and then having industry build NASA designs to being the customer of what industry builds,” he said. “Even NASA people use the analogy to the air mail contracts the government signed in the ’30s. It’s going to be a very different way of doing business.”
The Obama administration concluded the Constellation program, which has cost taxpayers more than $9 billion so far, “was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies,” according to a budget summary.
“Using a broad range of criteria, an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era…was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives.”
The independent review, chaired by aerospace executive Norman Augustine, concluded last fall that the Constellation program, hobbled by previous budget reductions under the Bush and Obama administrations, was not workable without an additional $3 billion a year in restored funding.
The panel outlined a variety of alternatives and favored a so-called “flexible path” approach that called for relying on private industry for manned flights to and from low-Earth orbit while NASA focused on development of a new heavy-lift rocket and eventual flights to a variety of possible deep space targets, including the moon, asteroids, and even the moons of Mars.
The budget unveiled Monday said the Constellation program took money away from other NASA programs, “including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations.”
The new budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a focus on preparing a more capable approach to space exploration, including:
Research and development to support future heavy-lift rocket systems that will increase the capability of future exploration and lower operations costs.
A technology development and test program that aims to increase the capabilities and reduce the cost of future exploration activities. NASA, working with industry, will build, fly, and test in orbit key technologies such as automated, autonomous rendezvous and docking, closed-loop life support systems, in-orbit propellant transfer, and advanced in-space propulsion so that our future human and robotic exploration missions are both highly capable and affordable.
A series of robotic exploration missions to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety and capability of future human missions and provide scientific dividends.
In a statement, Augustine said, “By allocating the technology resources highlighted in our report as being necessary, it will be possible to lay the foundation for travel beyond low-Earth-orbit…NASA will be able to focus on this true frontier and to regain its position as a cutting-edge research and development organization.
“This is obviously a demanding period from a budgetary standpoint. Importantly, the president’s proposed program seems to match means to ends, and should therefore be executable,” he said.
In a startling break with the past, the Obama administration ordered NASA to focus on a new initiative that would effectively outsource manned flight, turning to private industry to design and develop the rockets and spacecraft needed to carry U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.
Between the shuttle’s retirement and the emergence of a new manned rocket system, U.S., European, Japanese, and Canadian astronauts will be forced to hitch rides on Russian Soyuz rockets at more than $50 million a ticket.
“The budget funds NASA to contract with industry to provide astronaut transportation to the International Space Station as soon as possible, reducing the risk of relying solely on foreign crew transports for years to come,” the budget summary stated.
“A strengthened U.S. commercial space launch industry will bring needed competition, act as a catalyst for the development of other new businesses capitalizing on affordable access to space, help create thousands of new jobs, and help reduce the cost of human access to space.”
The only U.S. rockets currently flying that are powerful enough to step into the roll of crew transport in the near term are the Boeing-built Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 boosters used to launch military, scientific, and commercial satellites. Neither family of rockets is certified to carry humans.
Other companies are in the process of developing new spacecraft to carry supplies to the space station after the shuttle’s retirement. But it remains to be seen how long it might take any of the commercial interests to develop, test, and deploy a manned rocket system.
It also is not yet clear what sort of control and oversight NASA will have in the new commercial arena, whether astronauts will remain government employees or private contractors, or how the agency’s decades of operational experience might be leveraged by commercial operators.
“I think the primary way it translates over is for the winners in this commercial competition to hire the people that have the institutional memory,” Logsdon said. “Second, we’re going to be an operating station until at least 2020. So there’s a core of operational folks inside NASA that will still be very much involved.”
Contractors already occupy key positions in mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and at other NASA facilities, but it’s not yet known how commercial manned space flights will be managed; who will have responsibility for mission design, safety, and execution; or how government facilities might be utilized.
Bolden and Garver provided no details into how the new program will be executed, but Bolden insisted safety will remain a top priority.
“NASA will set standards and processes to ensure that these commercially built and operated crew vehicles are safe,” he said. “No one cares about safety more than I. I flew on the space shuttle four times. I lost friends in the two space shuttle tragedies. So I give you my word these vehicles will be safe.”
William Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 115 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of “Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia.” You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBSNews.com Space Place, where this story was first published.
By JUDY DEMPSEY and NICOLA CLARK NYT
BERLIN — Military officials from the European countries with orders to buy the Airbus A400M military transport plane tried and failed again Friday to resolve differences over how to share billions of euros in cost overruns, but said they would resume negotiations this coming week in Berlin in the hope of meeting a Jan. 31 deadline.
Many of the participating countries need the aircraft urgently as they play a greater and more demanding role in peacekeeping missions. The repeated delays — the A400M is now more than four years behind schedule — represent a big setback for European military cooperation.
Military procurement ministers from the seven customer nations met until late into the night Thursday with top managers from Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defense & Space.
“We will meet again early next week here in Berlin,” a German defense ministry spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said Friday. “All of the participants do want a solution to this problem.” Two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations said they would likely take place Tuesday.
Alexander Reinhardt, a spokesman for EADS, said nailing down the critical details of how to finance the program remained a thorny issue.
“The negotiations have been difficult, as expected,” Mr. Reinhardt said. Seven countries — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey — together ordered 180 A400Ms in 2003 for €20 billion, or $28.2 billion. Last year, EADS and Airbus asked them to help cover an additional €5.2 billion in costs and to accept significant delivery delays. The company has asked the countries to agree to an additional 25 percent payment, or around €5 billion, according to people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. The Airbus chief executive, Thomas O. Enders, warned this month that without an agreement soon, the project might have to be abandoned, placing as many as 40,000 European jobs at risk.
But while France said it would consider paying more, Germany has been more than reluctant. It has ordered 60 of the 180 aircraft, while France has ordered 50.
France was supposed to receive the first deliveries of the A400M transport aircraft late last year and Germany in 2010, but the plane made its first test flight only last month. Both countries will now have to wait several years more, according to the German Defense Ministry.
Germany, however, has little room to maneuver. With 4,300 German troops based in northern Afghanistan, Berlin needs access to such aircraft for transporting not only troops but also such heavy equipment as tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters. Without the A400M, it must either modernize at huge expense its Transall aircraft, which are more than 30 years old, or lease Russian Antonov aircraft.
“We want the A400M but not at any price,” the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, reiterated during an interview with the Bayernkurier newspaper to be published Saturday. “Our willingness to compromise has its limits.” Britain, too, is furious about the delays, especially given its big role in Afghanistan. The German Defense ministry official said that cost was not the only issue still on the table, but range and payload as well. The A400M is currently several tons over its specified weight.
An audit of the A400M program by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was commissioned last year by the governments, has blamed a significant portion of the cost over-runs on EADS and Airbus for failing to put proper budget controls in place. It also said the manufacturer had consistently underestimated development costs.
The auditor’s report, which was leaked to several European media this past week, estimated that the A400M was roughly €7.6 billion over budget.
EADS and Airbus have rejected the findings of the audit, but have so far failed to provide their own cost estimate for the program, now four years behind schedule.
EADS has already written off €2.4 billion in costs for a project that continues to expend cash at a rate of around €100 million each month.
The seven countries failed to meet an year-end 2009 deadline to agree on a new delivery schedule and financing arrangement for the contract, and last month set a new deadline of Jan. 31.
With the financial crisis and recession straining budgets across Europe, the governments have been reluctant to come up with more money.]]>
Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.
Meanwhile, a senior Air Force officer said Wednesday that a wave of new surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned, were being deployed to Afghanistan to bolster ‘eyes in the sky’ protection for the influx of American troops ordered by President Obama.
This apparent security breach, which had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible, arose because the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles do not use encryption in the final link to their operators on the ground.
Barring poor weather or technical issues, Airbus Military officials late this week expect to complete a roughly 3-hr. flight from the company’s facility here to demonstrate the aircraft’s basic handling characteristics.
The event has been a long time coming, owing, in part, to development delays with the engine and subsystems that have set the program back several years. The event marks the official beginning of a flight-test program that calls for 4,370 hr., says Eric Isorce, chief flight test engineer. About 60% of the effort will focus on military certification, the balance will be dedicated to gaining European Aviation Safety Agency approval.
Six crew will be onboard, backed by 50 engineers at each of the two main telemetry stations in Seville and Toulouse.
The aircraft will initially be flown in direct law with some dampening. After takeoff—rotation speed is projected to be 120 kt.—the aircraft will climb to a medium altitude and the gear will be retracted. At 10,000 ft. some basic performance checks will occur, the aircraft will be taken close to its maximum speed of around Mach 0.72, and then to its minimum speed, says Ed Strongman, Airbus’s chief military test pilot who will be at the controls. Afterward, flight controls will be shifted to normal law and further segments of the flight envelope will be explored before returning to Seville.
The flight will likely be followed by two days of data evaluation and inspections. Strongman expects the pace of flight trials to pick up early next year.
Ground trials by the flight-test department have been underway since Nov. 12 and already a number of system refinements have been identified. Some are needed for first flight, others can wait until further in the development. Still, Strongman says, preparations are “ahead of my expectations.”
One problem is nacelle heating when the airlifter is on the ground. Heat buildup is higher than anticipated—something already seen on the C-130 flying testbed. As a fix, engineers have determined that they can take some air off the high-pressure compressor for a nacelle ejector system to provide better ventilation at low power. The switchover, only needed on the ground at low speed and low wind, is now activated manually, but an automatic function is to be developed.
The exhaust gases are also overheating aft parts of the nacelle in some conditions. As an interim step, insulation and metal plate protection is being added. A more permanent fix is planned for the third flight-test aircraft.
On the other hand, engineers are seeing less heat buildup at the auxiliary power unit exhaust on the wing than expected, potentially allowing the exhaust to be shortened to reduce drag.
Tweaks are also being made to the engine settings. For now, high reverse power is limited to inboard engines. The ground-idle position may change for a better neutral-thrust position, Strongman says, noting that the issue will not affect first-flight plans. Overall, engines have shown “good response.”
As expected, in ground reverse the pitot static tubes are exposed to airflow that is leading to anomalous air speed indications, which is causing the information to be rejected by the flight-control computer. Airbus officials anticipated the anomaly and are assessing where to apply the needed software filter.
Airbus also had to refine the software controlling the anti-skid braking system, which, early on, showed poor characteristics. Initial trials also encountered the loss of tachometer data from some of the wheels. This is being addressed in the near term by strengthening connectors.
“We are solving problems very quickly,” Strongman notes. In one case, the TP400D turboprop engines had start-up difficulties, but the Europrop International engine consortium was able to deliver a software fix to the full authority digital flight control system overnight.
Eventually, the flight-test program will comprise five aircraft. Program officials still have a bit of margin to handle any glitches, but are downplaying the chance of recovering some of the schedule lost.
If the new development schedule can be met it may still be that the aircraft will attract a wide market and come to be a mainstay of Military airlift.
The A400 is intended to carry up to nearly 40,000 kg 1800nm, cruise at up to 400 kts and take off from unprepared fields under 1000 m. It is planned to have a ferry range of 5000nm. Wow.
Airbus has said its long-delayed A400M military transport aircraft should be ready to make its first test flight around the 7th December.
The A400M, designed to replace ageing military cargo carriers, has been on order by several European air forces for many years, however, a series of technical problems has created delays.
The aircraft was due to enter service with air forces this year, but the date has now been put back to 2013.
French and German officials have already told Airbus it only has until the end of the year to prove that the project remains viable.
Earlier this month, South Africa cancelled a multi-billion dollar contract for the planes.]]>
The MV-22s, which fly higher and faster than the helicopters they replace, are less vulnerable to ground fire. MV-22s were only fired on a few times in Iraq, and none of the aircraft were hit. The high speed and altitude (at least 9,000 feet, or 3,000 meters), kept the aircraft out range of most enemy weapons. Helicopters fly lower and slower. To do otherwise would further reduce the range of a helicopter. A big advantage in Afghanistan is the higher speed (about twice that of helicopters), enabling reinforcements to reach their objective in a more timely fashion. MV-22s also have longer range than helicopters, meaning more of Afghanistan is within range of fast moving reinforcements (of troops and supplies.)
The MV-22s proved easier to maintain than the CH-46 aircraft they are replacing. The MV-22s needed 9.5 man hours of maintenance for each hour in the air, versus 24 hours of maintenance for each hour the CH-46s fly. These helicopters are all over twenty years old, which adds a few hours to their maintenance requirements. While the MV-22 required less maintenance than expected, the dust and sand in Iraq led to some engines being replaced earlier than expected. That problem has been tended to, so the MV-22s in Afghanistan will have less of a problem.
Some of the MV-22s sent to Afghanistan are equipped with a GAU-2B machine-gun fitted to the bottom of the aircraft. The GAU-2B is a remote control turret using a six-barrel 7.62mm machine-gun. This system has a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds per minute (50 per second), and max range of 1,500 meters. The system weighs a few hundred pounds and includes 4,000 rounds of ammo. A member of the crew uses a video game like interface to operate the gun.
The marine MV-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off, level flight, landing, and return) at 400 kilometers an hour. The MV-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 200 kilometers an hour. The MV-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.
The Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments — or MATRIX — fired a 2½ kilowatt-class high energy laser that knocked down the aircraft, according to an Air Force Research Laboratory statement.
MATRIX “acquired, tracked” and destroyed the targets at “significant ranges,” the statement said. Scientists and engineers will design the laser system to protect the U.S. from enemy unmanned aircraft.
It was unclear how the laser brought down the aircraft or how big they were.
Boeing Directed Energy Systems built the MATRIX. The defense contractor has also developed the Airborne Laser — a Boeing 747 with a laser mounted on the nose designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.
Boeing also tested its Laser Avenger system at China Lake. The Humvee-mounted directed energy air defense system shot down another unmanned aircraft.
The Air Force Research Lab sponsored the test, which also was attended by Army and Navy officials.
“These tests validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland,” Bill Baker, chief scientist of the Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate,
The 100-kilowatt target
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has reported that it has fired a solid-state laser beam with a potency of 105.5 kilowatts.
For the ray-gun wing of the military-industrial complex, the 100-kilowatt threshold is a major milestone, marking the entry point to weapons-grade laser weapons. Adding to the appeal is that solid-state lasers are much more compact, and less noxious, than chemical laser systems such as the one in the works for the 747-centric Airborne Laser.
The technical details of Northrop’s achievement break down this way, starting with a modular, “building block” approach that bodes well for scalable systems, the company said:
For building blocks, the company utilizes “laser amplifier chains,” each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.
Adding an eighth chain that the system was designed for would increase laser power to 120 kilowatts, Northrop says.
Where this test saw five minutes of continuous operation for the laser, altogether the system has been operated at above 100 kilowatts for a total duration of more than 85 minutes.
The efforts are part of the Pentagon’s Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program.
Even though 100 kilowatts has long been the “proof of principle” sought for weapons systems, Northrop says that “in fact, many militarily useful effects can be achieved by laser weapons of 25 kW or 50 kW, provided this energy is transmitted with good beam quality, as our system does.”
Of course, this is still a laboratory laser system and not a field-tested, ruggedized product. “It is still a little heavy and a little big,” Dan Wildt, vice president of Northrop’s directed energy systems program, told the LA Times.
That’s probably a significant understatement. Says Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room blog of the news from Northrop:
Does that mean energy weapons are a done deal? Hardly. There are still all sorts of technical issues–thermal management and miniaturization, to name two–that have to be handled first. Then, the ray gunners have to find the money. The National Academies figure it’ll take another $100 million to get battlefield lasers right.
In a separate post, Shachtman reports on what’s involved in getting specific laser systems ready to go over the next several years.
Earlier this year, Boeing said that it had used a “kilowatt-class” solid-state laser to shoot down a UAV from a ground-based system. The company hopes that the Airborne Laser, meanwhile, will do its first-ever aerial target shoot sometime in 2009.