The missile plume is detected by the airborne laser (ABL) aircraft's infrared detection system at ranges up to several hundred kilometers. The U.S. Air Force ABL, designated YAL-1A, is a high-energy laser weapon system for the destruction of tactical theatre ballistic missiles, which is carried on a modified Boeing 747-400F freighter aircraft. The ABL aircraft carries the COIL laser which generates the killer laser beam, an infrared surveillance and high speed target acquisition system, and a high precision laser target tracking beam control system. The laser weapon uses three laser beam systems: the powerful killing laser beam or primary beam, a set of illuminating laser beams, and a beacon laser.

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