MZA 20/20:

Celebrating 20 years of technical excellence and service to the United States Armed Forces and looking forward with clear 20/20 vision.

MZA Accomplishments

MZA has commemorated its 20th anniversary through the MZA 20/20 initiative, part of which includes publishing a series of articles that provide an on-going retrospective of significant accomplishments that MZA has made to the industry throughout the company's history. This page will be periodically updated with the latest announcement.

Accomplishment #3: Airborne Laser Extended Atmospheric Characterization Experiment (ABLE ACE)

Early planning and development of the Airborne Laser (ABL) concept in the early 1990s addressed the practicality of performing sufficient atmospheric compensation of a high energy laser at long ranges in order to deliver lethal fluence on boosting targets. Of key interest at the time was whether the then-current understanding of the propagation of coherent light through very long paths through the upper atmosphere was sufficient and whether the models of such propagation were accurate enough to predict the performance of the system. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) undertook several experiments to characterize upper atmospheric propagation and to anchor wave-optics models that would eventually allow accurate prediction of the ABL's beam on target. ABLE ACE, the Airborne Laser Extended Atmospheric Characterization Experiment, was the second of the major atmospheric characterization efforts undertaken to answer these questions. MZA was a key contributor to the design, implementation, and conduct of the experiment and lead the data analysis and anchoring of wave-optics models to this landmark experiment.

D. C. Washburn, "ABLE ACE, A High Altitude Propagation Experiment ", Proc. SPIE 3065, 296 (1997).

W. P. Brown, "Simulation of laser propagation on long stratospheric paths", Proc. SPIE 3065, 313 (1997).

G. A. Tyler, et al., "The Differential Phase Experiment: experimental concept, design analysis, and data reduction analysis", Proc. SPIE 3065, 367 (1997).

L. D. Weaver, "Robust phase-measuring interferometer for airborne applications", Proc. SPIE 3065, 307 (1997).

S. C. Coy and R. W. Praus II, "The ABLE ACE Pupil Plane Imaging Experiment", Proc. SPIE 3065, 394 (1997).

R. R. Butts, "The ABLE ACE wavefront sensor", Proc. SPIE 3065, 339 (1997).

B. P. Venet, "High-altitude optical scintillometry", Proc. SPIE 3127, 332 (1997).

Accomplishment #2: Airborne Laser Experiment (ABLEX) for High Altitude Laser Propagation

Early planning and development of the Airborne Laser (ABL) concept in the early 1990s addressed the practicality of performing sufficient atmospheric compensation of a high energy laser at long ranges in order to deliver lethal fluence on boosting targets. Of key interest at the time was whether the then-current understanding of the propagation of coherent light through very long paths through the upper atmosphere was sufficient and whether the models of such propagation were accurate enough to predict the performance of the system. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) undertook several experiments to characterize upper atmospheric propagation and to anchor wave-optics models that would eventually allow accurate prediction of the ABL's beam on target. ABLEX, the Airborne Laser Experiment, was the first of the major atmospheric characterization efforts undertaken to answer these questions. MZA was a key contributor to the data analysis and the anchoring of wave-optics models to this landmark experiment.

Lawrence D. Weaver and Robert R. Butts, "ABLEX high-altitude laser propagation experiment," Proc. SPIE 2120, 30 (1994)

Robert R. Butts and Lawrence D. Weaver, "Airborne laser experiment (ABLEX): theory and simulations", Proc. SPIE 2120, 10 (1994)

Accomplishment #1: Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis

A retrospective of MZA would not be accurate without a special notice of the work that MZA has done for the ALTB program (formerly, the ABL program), and conversely, with what the ALTB has done for MZA. In short, MZA's history mirrors that of ALTB. MZA began back when the ALTB program began, and as the ALTB program matured, so did MZA. A few of MZA's key staff members involvement in ALTB goes back to before when ALTB was a real program in that they made contributions to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory's (AFWL) Airborne Laser Laboratory (ALL) program. MZA's President, Bob Praus, was stationed at AFWL as an eighteen year-old Airman Basic and spent his earliest professional years processing ALL experimental data. MZA Senior Scientist Dr. Don Washburn was the Branch Chief of the AFWL Beam Control branch in the latter years of the ALL.

On February 11, 2010, the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) destroyed a boosting ballistic missile (see the video). Not only is this the first successful demonstration of a lethal air-to-air laser weapon against a ballistic missile, it is the first time ever that a ballistic missile has been destroyed while in its boost phase. MZA has been a leader in modeling and analysis of the ALTB since the High Energy Laser (HEL) system was first conceived in the early 1990's. MZA provided risk reduction analysis during the initial conception and procurement of the system and then, starting in 2000, MZA provided the Missile Defense Agency's program office simulation, modeling, and analysis expertise in the areas of beam control, weapons performance prediction, and engagement analysis. As a long-time contributor to directed energy programs, MZA played a crucial role in this proof-of-concept demonstration.

Publicly available webpage that does a good job summarizing ALL and ALTB as well as other HEL weapons systems.

ALTB's page on Wikipedia

More MZA 20/20 accomplishments to come...