Airborne Laser Test Bed is put to rest in the Boneyard

Feb. 17, 2012
Davis Monthan Air Force Base, AZ--The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced this week that the Airborne Laser Test Bed has been put into "long-term storage" at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

Davis Monthan Air Force Base, AZ--The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced this week that the Airborne Laser Test Beda megawatt-class 1.3 µm chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) mounted in a modified Boeing 747 and intended to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phasehas been put into "long-term storage" at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This location, also known as the "Boneyard," is where excess and unused military aircraft are taken for preservation.

The Airborne Laser achieved high-power "first light" in ground testing in 2008, then was tested in flight several times over the next few years with varying success; however, it never reached the couple-hundred-kilometer range required to make the system useful in practice. In addition, its messy and bulky chemical-based technology is being superseded by electrically pumped lasers such as the alkali-vapor laser and, more importantly, diode-pumped solid-state lasers and fiber lasers, which are far higher in efficiency and require only a source of electrical power to operate.

Indeed, the MDA notes that it is "continuing efforts to develop highly efficient electric lasers in support of missile defense to significantly reduce the complexity and cost of future directed-energy weapons."

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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