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
"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
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.
"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.
"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
"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