Airborne Laser Test Bed Enters Retirement

The Air Force’s YAL-1A Airborne Laser Test Bed took off one last time from Edwards AFB, Calif., on a ferry flight to Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for placement in storage at the service’s boneyard for retired aircraft. ALTB, a modified Boeing 747-400 configured to fire a high-power chemical laser beam from its nose turret to shoot down boosting ballistic missiles, began a test program at Edwards in December 2002. These activities culminated in February 2010 with the successful shootdowns of a solid-fueled rocket and a liquid-fueled missile, thereby “proving the viability of directed energy for missile defense,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Warmka, director of the ALTB combined test force. “All the things we did in this program were new and firsts for the Air Force,” said John Wong, director of engineering for the combined test force. ALTB left Edwards on Feb. 14, arriving at Davis-Monthan later that same day. (Edwards report by Jet Fabara)