December 21, 2006: YAL-1A Airborne Laser Returned to the Center After Modification

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The YAL-1A Airborne Laser (ABL) returned to the Center following modifications installed at Wichita, Kansas. The Boeing facility installed the ABL’s solid-state beam control and fire control laser illuminators, and strengthened its fuselage and chemical-fuel tanks. In coming months, the low-power lasers would be test-fired against an instrumented target board on the side of the NC-135E Big Crow aircraft.

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system was a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified military aircraft same as the Boeing 747-400F. It was primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase. The aircraft was designated YAL-1A in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Defense.  The YAL-1 with a low-power laser was test-fired in flight at an airborne target in 2007.  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 and the program was canceled in December 2011. It made its final flight on February 14, 2011 to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to be kept in storage at the "Boneyard" by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. It was ultimately scrapped in September 2014 after all usable parts were removed.

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