With the announcement of Boeing and NASA developing a "new" wing, based on the 30+ year old Mission Adaptive Wing technology, I decided to go ahead
with this thread after all.
Recently I was talking about various projects with people that know, and the topic of energy weapons came up. From microwave, to laser systems, when
it occured to me that the YAL-1A "failure" may have been a cover for a weapon system that's already developed that could be "spun off" the
technology that was used in the ABL program.
If you look at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico the AFRL has a major laser lab there. They have been working on developing laser systems there since at
least the 1970s. The Directed Energy Directorate works from there, developing Laser Systems, High Power Electromagnetics, Weapons Modeling and
Simulation, and Directed Energy and Electro-Optics for Space Superiority.
Directed Energy Directorate
In 1968, the Air Force Weapons Laboratory began work on a CO2 gas dynamic laser system. The idea to mount it on an aircraft followed shortly
thereafter. In 1972 a 100 kilowatt CO2 laser (ground based) was successfully fired. After the success of the ground based tests, the lab moved to
firing at airborne targets. On November 13, 1973, a 12 foot MQM-33B drone was targeted and hit with the laser. The laser burned through the skin,
destroying the control systems. The Air Force was trying to hit the fuel tank, and cause an explosion, which they did the following day. The laser
locked on and impacted the fuel tank, causing an explosion.
In March of 1972, the lab had secured a KC-135A (53123) to mount the laser on. It was redesignated as an NKC-135A, and called the Airborne Laser Lab.
A second aircraft was used to mount laser targets on, and was shot with a low powered system to show tracking and firing abilities of the systems
53123 Airborne Laser Lab
Flying target aircraft
In January of 1975 the ALL began shakedown tests to determine flight characteristics of the aircraft and the laser system mounted on it. Over 8 years
the lab tested tracking, and lasing from the aircraft, until 1983 when they were ready to do full up testing of the system.
On May 26, 1983 the ALL successfully shot down an AIM-9B missile. Between then and June 1 of 1983 it shot down four more Sidewinders. The final test
of the system occurred on September 26, 1983. In a joint USAF/USN test, the ALL shot down three BMQ-34A target drones, that were simulating Soviet
According to the Air Force Weapons Lab, the stress put on the laser turret during flight would potentially limit the life of the laser structure.
Since testing to that point had been labeled "Proof of Concept" it was supposedly put on a shelf and ignored until after Desert Storm.
After Desert Storm, and all the Scud missiles that were fired, interest in an Airborne Laser picked up again. The Air Force supposedly started all
over again from scratch with the YAL-1A program. The program lost funding in 2010, after successfully destroying a ballistic missile in the boost
phase in testing. One of the main reasons was the range of the laser. It was reported that the aircraft would have to fly over hostile territory to
be able to hit a missile in the boost phase.
Now, after the quick history lesson, my question is this.....What were they doing from 1983 until 1996 and beyond? Did they really just say "oh, the
Airborne Laser Lab worked beautifully, let's shelve it and ignore it"? Or did they continue testing and development, but make it go dark. We're
seeing laser systems tested now that fit in a C-130 sized aircraft. Are these really the best that the AFRL has been able to come up with since prior
to 1983? The laser used on the ALL was tiny in comparison to the one used on the YAL-1A, but seems to have done more than that laser was able to do,
Just as Boeing is developing a "new" wing, that's based on 30+ year old technology, was the YAL-1A program used to prepare us for some "new"
weapon system that's going to come out of the dark soon?