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417th Flight Test Squadron

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417th Flight Test Squadron

417th Flight Test Squadron

417th Flight Test Squadron - Boeing YAL-1A 00-0001
Active 10 March 1989 - 14 February 2012
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Squadron
Role Flight Testing
Part of Air Force Materiel Command
Garrison/HQ Edwards Air Force Base, California
Decorations AFOUA
417th Flight Test Squadron emblem
Aircraft flown
Boeing YAL-1A

The 417th Flight Test Squadron (417 FLTS) is an inactive United States Air Force squadron. It was last assigned to the 412th Operations Group, Air Force Materiel Command, stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was inactivated on 14 February 2012.


The 417th FLTS performed flight testing on Boeing YAL-1A Airborne Laser aircraft (ABL). The ABL was an airborne-directed energy weapon system. The YAL-1A is a prototype that employs a highly-modified, 747-400 airframe equipped with sensors, lasers and sophisticated optics to find, track and destroy ballistic missiles in their boost, or ascent, phase.[1]

The program was terminated due to budget reductions on 14 February 2012. The YAL-1A Airborne Laser Test Bed aircraft was ferried to Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona where it was placed in storage by the at the Air Force’s Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.[2]


C-17 GLobemaster III

Established in 1989 to perform flight testing on the new C-17 Globemaster III airlifter which was developed by McDonnell Douglas to replace the aging C-141 Starlifter. The squadron received its first YC-17A (T-1) in late 1991 (87-0025). Five more C-17A production models (88-0265, 88-0266 (P-1, P-2, LotI)), (89-1189 - 89-1192 (Lot II, P-3, P-4, P-5)) participated in extensive flight testing and evaluation. Testing was completed and the first production model was delivered to the 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina on 14 July 1993.[3][4]

The first C-17 squadron was operational (17th Airlift Squadron) in January 1995 and the squadron was inactivated on 1 October and C-17 support was transferred to the 418th Flight Test Squadron.[5][6]

YAL-1A Airborne Laser

Was re-activated in March 2006 for ground and flight testing of the YAL-1A Airborne Laser aircraft. The ABL is a component of Missile Defense Agency's boost-phase segment designed to destroy enemy missiles soon after they are launched to provide defense of the United States, its international allies, and its deployed troops.[1]

In February 2007, the ABL began a series of flight tests, which included the first in-flight firing of the TILL targeting laser at a simulated target, in March 2007. This was followed by flight tests of the BILL illuminating laser and tests of TILL, BILL and a surrogate high-energy laser (SHEL) low-power laser. Installation of the six COIL laser modules was completed in February 2008. The first firing ('first light') of the COIL laser took place in September 2008. The test lasted less than a second and was followed by further ground tests of increased duration and power. In November 2008, the COIL laser was fired and focused through the beam control / fire control system.[7]

A high energy laser aboard the aircraft was successfully fired from the Edwards Air Force Base in August 2009. The YAL 1A laser travels at the speed of light to destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight. In January 2010, the high energy laser was fired to intercept a test Missile Alternative Range Target Instrument (MARTI).[7]

In February 2010, the US MDA and Boeing jointly tested the speed, precision and breakthrough potential of directed energy weapons deployed in the ABL test bed.[7] In 2010, the ALTB successfully knocked a “threat representative” missile out of flight from a distance of 50 miles. This resulted in the program receiving an additional $40 million in funding even though the Secretary of Defense himself admitted it wasn’t realistic. However, in that same year the device failed two tests in a row. In 2011 funding was eliminated as the program was eight years behind schedule and it had a staggeringly large budget of $500 million per year.[8]


  • Designated as 6517th Test Squadron, and activated, on 10 March 1989
Re-designated: 417th Test Squadron on 2 October 1992
Re-designated: 417th Flight Test Squadron on 1 March 1994
Inactivated on: 1 October 1995
  • Re-activated on: 16 March 2006
Inactivated on: 14 February 2012








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