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Cutler-Hammer AIL 1540 Light Table


Display Status:

This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar room at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Cutler-Hammer AIL 1540 Light Table

Collection Item Summary:

U.S. intelligence agencies began using the AIL Information Systems 1540 Multi-Form light tables (MLT 1540s) in 1971 to analyze film returned from U-2s, SR-71s; CORONA, GAMBIT, and HEXAGON satellites; and other photoreconnaissance vehicles. The MLT 1540 improved upon previous light tables. It had motorized features, could handle up to four film rolls of various widths, and enabled analysts to view two rolls stereoscopically. The MLT 1540 also accomodated improved optics, including the Bausch and Lomb Zoom 240 stereoscope displayed here.

Light tables such as the MLT 1540 continued to be used into the 1980s to analyze film returned from satellites and aircraft. Despite the introduction of computerized systems in 1981 to process imagery returned digitally from photoreconnaissance satellites and aircraft, they were also used for over 20 years to analyze some digital imagery that was run off in hard copy because the computerized systems could not process all of it.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency transferred the MLT 1540 to the Museum in 2004.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Credit Line

Transferred from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency


  • Metal, plastic, and glass
  • Cover: synthetic fabric


  • Other: 4ft 2in. x 5ft 2in. x 2ft 6in. (127 x 157.48 x 76.2cm)
  • 152.4 x 101.6cm (5ft x 3ft 4in.) (Approximate, cover, laid flat)

Country of Origin

United States



Inventory Number