AKA: Phillips Laboratory;Air Force Special Weapons Center;AFWL;Air Force Weapons Laboratory;AFSWC.
Named for General Samuel C. Phillips, the Phillips Laboratory came into existence on December 11, 1990. But the components of Phillips Laboratory based at Kirtland date back to 1952 with the establishment of the Air Force Special Weapons Center (AFSWC). Charged with developing and testing nuclear and other special weapons, the laboratory also tested components of the weapon delivery systems that carried these weapons. In 1963, the AFSWC Research and Development Directorate formed the Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL) at Kirtland to conduct tests including evaluating the effects of nuclear weapons and various climatic conditions on weapon components. Missiles that received AFWL treatment included the Titan, Minuteman, and Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as well as the Spartan antiballistic missile (ABM).
On October 1, 1982, AFSWC and AFWL joined with the Rocket Propulsion Lab (renamed Astronautics Lab in 1987) at Edwards AFB, California, and the Geophysics Lab (formally AF Cambridge Research Lab) in Massachusetts to become subordinate labs to the Air Force Technology Center. Headquartered at Kirtland, this organization was Phillips Laboratory's immediate predecessor.
Among the AFWL facilities that supported missile component testing are:
• The AFWL/Los Alamos Electronic Pulse Calibration and Simulation (ALECS) facility, which has supported electromagnetic pulse (EMP) testing of various weapons and communications systems. Examples of missiles tested include Minuteman and the Navy's Poseidon.
• The Pulserad 1590 pulsed power machine, which was used from 1968 to 1976 to produce X-ray studies of the hardness levels of intercontinental and antiballistic missile guidance computers.
• The Shiva Star, which is an extensive modification of the Shiva I power source. Began in 1971, the Shiva I used cylindrical plasma liner implosions to produce intense X-rays that simulate space conditions that could affect satellites, boosters, and reentry vehicles. Modified in 1982, the Shiva Star allowed AFWL to perform research work in plasma physics, power pulse physics, and fusion technology that has earned the Air Force national recognition.