Airborne Laser flight turret assembly arrives at Edwards
By Capt. Kelly George
Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Airborne Laser program achieved a
long-awaited and important milestone Monday with the delivery of the
flight turret assembly, the final subsystem required to support the
aircraft's return to flight later this year after almost two years of
The ABL aircraft, YAL-1A, a modified Boeing 747-400 series freighter,
arrived at Edwards' Birk Flight Test Facility in December 2002 to
undergo the installation of all the hardware components needed to
support and accurately fire the weapons-class laser that will eventually
be housed aboard YAL-1A.
The turret assembly completes the Beam Control/Fire Control system, or
BCFC, for YAL-1A. This system is designed to point and focus the
high-energy laser on a ballistic missile while it is still in its boost
phase of flight. The BCFC employs a complex array of mirrors and optics
in order to correct for atmospheric disturbances and the turbulence of
flight, ensuring the laser reaches its target.
Lockeed Martin Space Systems developed the flight turret assembly and
performed the final construction and checkout at their facility in
Sunnyvale, Calif., prior to delivering it Monday.
"The turret assembly is the heart of the beam control and tracking
system," said Carl Wellstein, BCFC chief engineer and deputy site
director for Lockheed Martin. "The turret delivery to Edwards . is an
outstanding accomplishment and the result of hundreds of engineers
working some very long hours in Sunnyvale. It is truly the crown jewel
of this weapon system."
The assembly creates ABL's distinctive nose. It contains a turret ball,
which houses a large-aperture telescope, and an outer roll shell
structure. The turret ball also includes a highly-transmissive,
conformal window through which the laser travels to the target. The
integrated ball and roll shell provide the full range of motion required
for ABL's mission.
The ultimate goal is then to have the ability to focus the laser with
pinpoint accuracy on targets hundreds of miles away even in the midst of
turbulent flight conditions and atmospheric changes. The BCFC system
makes this possible and, combined with the Battle Management Command,
Control, Computers, and Intelligence segment, enables the Airborne Laser
weapon system to have complete coverage over the battlefield.
"The turret delivery is not only a culmination of the hard work and
talent of Lockheed in Sunnyvale," said Chuck Irving, ABL Integrated Test
Force deputy director, "but also several months of intense effort by the
ABL team at Edwards preparing the aircraft for turret installation and
return to flight."
When the Airborne Laser System Program Office performed the initial
airworthiness tests of YAL-1A in 2002, the aircraft carried a surrogate
turret assembly that contained mass simulators in place of the optical
"This delivery marks the end of another ABL chapter and the beginning of
a new exciting flight test program," said Bob Suszek, ABL Integrated
Test Force project manager.
In the future, the ABL team plans to resume flight tests of the
integrated Beam Control/Fire Control and battle management systems
aboard YAL-1A. The high-energy laser will continue to undergo testing in
a surplus 747 fuselage in the Birk Flight Test Facility's System
Integration Laboratory, or SIL. Once those tests are complete, the laser
will be removed from the SIL and reassembled on YAL-1A.
"mass simulators" = ballast
Where does he get those marvelous toys??
YAL == yet another laser?
So do the mass simulators merely simulate mass, or do they actually have mass?
Using the current DOD military aircraft designation system
"Air Force Joint Instruction (AFJI) 16-401 Designating and Naming Military Aerospace Vehicles"
This is what it "appears" to be:
Y = Prototype (Status Prefix)
A = Ground Attack (Modified Mission)
L = Laser-Equipped (Basic Mission)
1 = Design Number
A = Series Letter
2.8 Boeing AL-1
AL-1A is the designation for the planned ABL ("Airborne Laser") aircraft, a Boeing 747 equipped with a high-power laser to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles. The designation has several flaws.
First, the "L-for-Laser" basic mission prefix was introduced just for this aircraft. While the addition of new letters is nothing to object to, a mission letter based on the type of weapon used by an aircraft is grossly against the original purpose of the designation system. Before "L" all prefix letters described the mission (or vehicle type) of an aircraft regardless of the equipment used to fulfill this mission. Nobody would have considered designating, say, nuclear capable aircraft with an "N" designator, yet an equivalent thing was now done for laser-equipped aircraft.
It seems that the ABL was considered as such a "revolutionary" weapon that only a new "special" designation would do. The original letter which initiated MDS assignment for the aircraft, dated 15 April 1996, includes the paragraph:
After considerable review of AFJI 16-401, standardized MDS designators symbols and descriptions for aircraft, the SPO believes that the current MDS designations do not capture the mission of this revolutionary aircraft. The Airborne Laser is a "shooter" - the gun is a multi-megawatt laser whose bullet travels at the speed of light. Its mission is a new one for the Air Force - boost phase theater missile defense. To get the ball rolling, the SPO proposes YAL-1, for Prototype Attack Laser-1. This MDS could be suitable for this revolutionary system with a small change to the current instruction (AFJI 16-401) within the "basic mission" category. Currently no "L" prefix exists within the "basic mission" category, but this change would add an "L" prefix to denote "Laser" capability.
While the rules were simply bent to allow for the "L" prefix, the "A" modified mission letter is just another misapplication. "A" is defined as "Ground Attack", something which the ABL will never do. The "AL" prefix was probably chosen because it can be conveniently read as "Airborne Laser" or "Attack Laser" (another name sometimes used for the aircraft). However, designation prefixes were never meant to be acronyms (a similar error was made when the ASAT missile prototype was designated as ASM-135 (ASM = Anti-Satellite Missile), when AIM-135 would have been appropriate). The correct prefix would have been "F", which is explicitly defined as applicable to aircraft designed to intercept and destroy other aircraft or missiles. This is exactly the mission of the ABL.
The correct designation for the AL-1 would have consisted of an existing basic designation for the Boeing 747, prefixed by an "F" modified mission letter. There have been several basic designations assigned to the 747 (thereby also violating the regulations), but the most applicable would be the two non-cancelled ones, E-4 (used for E-4A, E-4B) and C-25 (used for VC-25A). Therefore the ABL should have been designated as either FE-4C or FC-25B. I admit that both of these designations look rather unusual with their "F-for-Fighter" prefix, but they are in perfect agreement with the designation system as defined. It is interesting to note that the designation YFC-36A was reserved by the USAF Nomenclature Office in spring 1996 for a "four-engined" (no other details available) Air Force aircraft. While I cannot definitely confirm this, the "YFC" prefix of this designation strongly suggests that it was tentatively reserved for the ABL in case the new L-for-Laser mission designator would not be approved.
Whirz thu pichers?
HELL YEAH! PROUD TO BE AMERICAN!
Why on a 747? Surely there's a more economical, nimble and sensible platform to test this on.
When Airborne Lasers are outlawed, only outlaws will have Airborne Lasers.
They can take my Airborne LAser when they pry it from my cold, dead fuselage!
From what I heard, that is the SMALLEST airframe that can carry the power production equipment required for this laser. And the laser is still underpowered from what they really want.
they should hire those guys fro "real genius" or whatever that movie is with val kilmer
this is gonna be really good
bzzzap...smoke...lightly toasted hadj
hey sgt, hold my gun, watch this...
We could already do that if we sent the little Zeus laser (13kw) to Iraq.
I don't think the YAL can see ground targets by itself. Its telescope won't focus on something that close.
But, if certain unfriendly heads of state have their personal aircraft MYSTERIOUSLY disintegrate in mid air, you will now have to look and see if there was a unregistered 747 within a 300mi radius
Hadn't thought of that. Good Idea!!!!
Yep, right after we develop fusion, FTL and time travel. See previous comments for serious answers.
Why a 747?
Because this is a HUGE, HEAVY weapon...
It is a CHEMICAL laser, which requires chemical 'laser fuel' to serve as 'ammo', since even a 747 cannot generate enough electricity to power a conventional arc-laser...
And because this weapon needs a very stable platform to fire from - off by a MOA -> a miss...
Also, this isn't a Star Trek Phaser, it's a single-point laser that will bore a nice, neat little hole in whatever it's fired at, igniting any combutsable stores in the process... Think of it as a long-range plasma cutter...
The idea is that it will be used to engage missiles (Which are mostly fuel & oxidizer) in the ascent phase, and be capable of use against aircraft 'if needed'
Very few ground targets are 'the right profile' for this weapon, although it would be devastatingly effective against fuel dumps, fuel trucks, and similar....
It will not be able to target ground troops...
EXCUSE ME, BUT SHOULDN'T YOU PUT "POTD" IN THE SUBJECT SO THAT THOSE OF US AT WORK DON'T HAVE A GIANT PLANE SHOWING ITS TIT ON OUR SCREENS WHEN OUR BOSSES WALK UP??
What college courses does one take to get into this kind of stuff?
... Go to the "pics & clips" and watch the streaming video (2004)
... this is a very exciting project
I am still not sure about the exact family relationship between YAL and THEL/MTHEL
MTHEL LOOKS to have almost the same laser emitterr, but everything fits in a HEMETT chasses ,though it may require a tanker HEMETT alongside to carry the fuel. All the companies on the Amercian side of the MTHEL (which is a US/Israeli joint venture) are the same as are working on the AL-1.
I am not sure how much of a power difference there is between MTHEL and the AL-1. If they are the same or if AL-1 is more powerful.
But if THEL can fit in a HEMETT truck bed, then it can fit into the cargo bay of a C-130.
Can you say ALC-130?
It would allow the Herky bird to stay WAY up in the air, maybe 20,000 feet depending on weather conditions and allow it to pick off people with a weapon that is totally soundless and invisable. A haji would be walking down the street and just suddenly burst into flame.
Also the US Navy for one doesnt like the volitile and toxic chemicals used to fuel the THEL and AL-1. So they have hired Robert Bussard (he who theorised the space ramjet that bears your name) to see if he can make the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion reactor originally patented by Philo T Farnsworth (the inventer of the video tube) in the 30's to create a smaller and safer light source by fusing hydrogen atoms. The USN signed a contract with Bussards EMC2 Inc based in San Diego this past March to make a POC model.