Testers End High-Energy Laser Tests and Dismantle ABL SIL Facility

Contractors dismantle the Boeing 747 fuselage portion of the ABL System Integration Laboratory at the Birk Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB.
Photo: Kellie Masters

3/29/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA -- Dismantling of System Integration Laboratory components began recently at the Birk Flight Test Center here following the conclusion of laser testing for the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program.

The SIL was established to test the operation of the program's high-energy laser at a simulated operational altitude on the ground.

"We operated the laser in the laboratory well over 50 times and achieved lasing durations representative of an operational engagement against a boosting ballistic missile," said John Kalita, project manager for the SIL fuselage. "The high-energy laser provides an operationally significant range against all classes of missiles including intercontinental ballistic missiles."

Now that the system has been qualified, work can begin to integrate the system on the YAL-1A, known as the Airborne Laser, late in this fiscal year, Mr. Kalita said.

A Boeing 747 fuselage was an integral part of the SIL, he said.

"There were many reasons the ABL program chose the 747 fuselage to conduct laser testing," said Todd Augustine, senior analyst for the ABL program. "However, the primary reasons were safety and risk reduction."

The fuselage was also important for fit testing of ABL components in a 747 before being installed on the YAL-1A aircraft, Mr. Kalita said.

"The complexity of the systems in the SIL is comparable to an oil refinery," Mr. Kalita said. "We had to install everything by the numbers and remove it by the numbers. This allowed us to develop methods for installing and removing those systems on the actual ABL aircraft."

The 747 fuselage is being dismantled and removed from the SIL to make space for ABL components, Mr. Kalita said. The dismantled fuselage will be recycled as scrap.

"To dismantle the aircraft fuselage, we started with removal of the laser system in January," Mr. Kalita said. "The next process was decontamination of the whole system with a triple rinse process. We then removed all of the associated hardware connected to the laser system. The ABL is a chemical system and all of the tubing and plumbing had to be flushed to ensure it was free of chemical residue. Recently, we began cutting the aircraft into pieces being careful not to damage the surrounding facility structure, hardware and utilities."

The final step will involve leveling out the floor and filling any holes in the walls that accommodated the 747 aircraft, Mr. Kalita said.

"The SIL decontamination and 747 fuselage removal project is currently on schedule and under budget because of the efforts of the (95th Air Base Wing Civil Engineering and Transportation Directorate)," Mr. Kalita said.

The SIL is scheduled to be converted into a hardware and staging area for ABL's temperature and climate sensitive components, Mr. Kalita said. The SIL building provides an ideal environment because it has climate control, fire suppression and fire detection available.

"The SIL has been a part of the Birk Flight Test Center at South Base here for the last six years," Mr. Kalita said. "People driving by would see the giant spherical tank outside and a mysterious 747 sticking out of the building. Now the program is moving on and growing, and the landscape will change once again."

Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez

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