YAL-1 Airborne Laser


By Dario Leone
Mar 23 2017
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The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed weapons system was a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F

The interesting picture in this article shows YAL-1 Airborne Laser flying alongside an NKC-135E Big Crow.

Noteworthy on Mar. 15, 2007 the YAL-1 conducted the first in-flight test firings of its Target Illuminator Laser (TIL). Multiple beams of photons were directed against an NKC-135E Big Crow target aircraft off the California coastline. The kilowatt-class TIL tracks a potential target and measures atmospheric turbulence for the YAL-1’s main weapon, the megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser.

Primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase, 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 Boeing 747-400F.

After the first in-flight test firing at an airborne target, a high-energy laser was used to intercept a test target in Jan. 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. The YAL-1 performed its final flight on Feb. 14, 2012 to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Tucson, Arizona to be kept in storage at the “Boneyard” by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG).

It was ultimately scrapped in Sep. 2014 after all usable parts were removed.

Photo credit: Edwards History Office file photo / U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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