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Frontiers August 2012 Issue

all the publicity around the program, I’m three of their teammates for advancing of its employees came from the Airborne not sure everyone understood what was key program technologies. And in 2010, Laser team. accomplished, what was demonstrated.” the Air Force Association honored the Former Airborne Laser employees also Added Parkes: “The ‘wow’ factor of program with the Theodore Von Karman are helping to develop the Mk 38 Tactical shooting down a ballistic missile with light Award, the association’s highest honor Laser System as well as other Directed was just amazing.” in science and engineering. Energy Systems weapons. Others who The entire engagement occurred within “The uniqueness of putting a powerful worked on the Airborne Laser now are two minutes of the target missile’s launch. laser on an airplane and then firing it, applying their experience to engineering But they were eventful minutes, marking accurately, while accounting for atmospheric and testing for Commercial Airplanes. the first time a laser weapon had engaged distortion … it will be many years until “Very few actually retired,” said Flanders, and destroyed an in-flight ballistic missile those accomplishments are repeated,” now a scheduler for 787 Test & Validation. and the first time any system had accom- said Greg Hyslop, vice president and “We placed somewhere around 95 percent plished it in the missile’s boost phase general manager of Strategic Missile of the engineering staff that was on of flight. It followed the Airborne Laser’s and Defense Systems. “Those things that program.” successful intercept and destruction of are no-kidding rocket science.” While the Airborne Laser Test Bed air- a research rocket launched from the The Airborne Laser Test Bed’s complex craft now sits in the Air Force’s “Boneyard” ground on Feb. 3, 2010. technology, including its adaptive optics— in Arizona, many who worked on the Technical challenges prevented a which corrected for atmospheric distortion program say the groundbreaking research repeat of the successful shootdown in in targeting the laser on missile and sys- and feats accomplished were ahead of attempts over the following year. In fall tems for controlling high-energy lasers, their time. 2009, the Pentagon shifted the Airborne now is being used in other Directed Energy “We’re already looking at next-generation Laser from a potential weapons system Systems programs, other Defense Depart- airborne lasers,” Rinn said. “It’s taking the program to a research and development ment programs and even in astronomy. For pathfinding work that the Airborne Laser program and then canceled it in 2011. example, Rinn said, the High Energy Laser did and carrying it forward.” n Despite the challenges, the U.S. Missile Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) program eric.c.fetters-walp@boeing.com Defense Agency awarded its Technology for the U.S. Army wouldn’t exist without the Pioneer Award in 2009 to three Boeing Airborne Laser program’s developments, Airborne Laser Test Bed engineers and noting that program’s manager and some The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) program for the U.S. Army wouldn’t exist without the Airborne Laser program’s developments. – Mike Rinn, vice president of Directed Energy Systems PHOTOS: (Right) The retired Airborne Laser Test Bed is now parked in the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. KURTISS HUMPHREY/BOEING (Inset) The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator is being devel- oped for the U.S. Army by Boeing Directed Energy Systems using knowledge gained on the Airborne Laser Test Bed. BOEING 30 BOEING FRONTIERS / AUGUST 2012


Frontiers August 2012 Issue
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