Precursor To Airborne Laser
Atop 8,000-foot (2,400 m) high North Oscura Peak, a 30-inch (760 mm) telescope is used to send and receive laser light to and from Salinas Peak, another site approximately 35 miles (56 km) away. Sophisticated instrumentation is used to measure the extent that Earth’s atmosphere distorts the laser light. Then, deformable optics are used: mirrors that can change their shape to compensate for the distortions. The information gained from these tests will benefit any follow on efforts to the Airborne Laser – a large cargo aircraft, equipped with a high energy laser that can destroy theater ballistic missiles hundreds of miles away. In contrast to the Airborne Laser, which is designed to operate at altitudes around 40,000 feet (12,000 m), these tests are taking place on peaks that are between 8,000 and 9,000 feet (2,700 m) high. The denser air at these lower test elevations makes it possible to take the collected data and scale it to the higher altitudes and longer ranges envisioned for the Airborne Laser. Research at this site may be applied on the first three Airborne Laser production aircraft or as advanced weaponry on tactical aircraft.
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