The Laser Vans at Eglin were mobile laser designator and laser monitoring stations. The vans were designed for monitoring laser target designators on Eglin's test ranges. They carried equipment designed to track laser spots and to record the position, coding, and intensity of the lasers. The Laser Vans also carried "portable" ND Yag designator laser for illuminating targets (real and simulated) with precisely coded beams of laser light.
Sometimes the missions were just practice runs for pilots, testing the accuracy of the airborne target designators. Those missions were fun, but the best ones involved live munitions. I saw tanks, APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers), and other targets destroyed by Maverick and Hellfire laser guided missiles and GBU-15 and GBU-17 laser guided bombs.
This is a photo of me on one of Eglin's bombing ranges, holding an LTD laser (Laser Target Designator). I used this laser to designate remote controlled APC's and other moving targets for aircraft flying overhead.
This picture was taken by an official Air Force photographer using my Polaroid camera.
This is an ND Yag designator laser used to illuminate static targets.
At left is the laser shown above and it's power supply. On the tripod at right are the laser spot tracker, laser power meter, and an infrared video camera. The data from these instruments was relayed to the Laser Van by a PCM microwave link (not shown). All of this equipment could be remotely controlled from the Laser Van.
This is me firing the GLLD Laser (Ground Laser Locator and Designator).
This laser had a range finding mode. It could determine the distance to a target by "pinging" it with one short pulse of light and timing the round trip time for that pulse.
One mission involved an F-111 making simulated bombing runs against a target I was illuminating with the GLLD. After one of the runs, while the aircraft was at the other end of it's pattern, I decided to "ping" a distant water tower. It seemed like a good time to play with the GLLD, since the range was "laser safe" (everyone was wearing laser goggles) and the aircraft was many miles away. But that one pulse of infrared light was enough to draw the attention of the F-111's bomb, thereby focusing much unwanted attention on me!
In 1980 I spent a month at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah with Laser Van III as part of a test of the GBU-15 laser guided bomb. Because Dugway was a chemical and biological weapons test range anyone entering the area was required to have a gas mask. This is a photo of me wearing mine.
The white truck is the Laser Van, the white dome is a mobile cinetheodolite (tracking telescope with cameras), and the blue trailer contained seismic equipment.
Text and Photos © 1981 by Bob Hampton All Rights Reserved