Protecting aircrew eyes in the sky

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren Cobin

Airmen from 28th and 46th Test and Evaluation Squadrons from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., visited MacDill AFB to evaluate an improved version of the Aircrew Laser Eye Protection glasses, starting June 22, 2022.

The new ALEP day spectacles protect an individual’s central and peripheral vision against direct and reflected exposure to lasers. The newest ALEP enhancement includes dye-infused lenses that defend against a broader spectrum of rays.

“I am nothing without my ability to see in the jet,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Breen, a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft pilot assigned to the 91st Air Refueling Squadron.

Lasering or aiming a small, high-powered laser device at an aircraft in flight, is an intentional and dangerous criminal act that can temporarily blind pilots and aircrew members during flight operations, jeopardizing the safety and control of an aircraft.

These lasering incidents can potentially put lives at risk, affecting commercial and transiting military aircraft.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in 2021 there were a reported 9,723 lasering incidents, a 41 percent increase over 2020 incidents. This was the highest reported number of incidents ever recorded.

As a felony offense, lasering aircraft carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The FAA and U.S. Air Force are continuously dedicated to stopping this activity to protect pilot and aircrew members’ eyes.

Providing aircrew members with the latest protective equipment to stay safe against the threats of unwanted harmful lasers, the test squadrons initiated a large-scale assessment of the product in multiple military aircraft types at various locations beginning with the 6th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135s.

“What we’re looking for is a well-integrated system and mission,” said 2nd Lt. Naomi Cuadrado, a test engineer assigned to the 28th TES. “Our goal is to fully understand the effectiveness of this device in every airframe that it is fielded to.”

Cuadrado included that the testing is being completed in phases, with the KC-135 Stratotanker, B-52 Stratofortress, C-17 Globemaster and additional aircraft during phase one. Aircrew assigned to these aircraft should expect to be issued the improved ALEP devices by December of this year.