|New Tower Will Improve Weapon Seeker Testing|
New Tower Will Improve Weapon Seeker Testing
By Tech Sgt. David Donato, Air Armament Center Public Affairs.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida -- (AFPN) March 12, 2002 -- The 46th Test Wing here will enter a new era of testing weapons seekers in April, when a 300-foot test tower is unveiled.
This 300-foot tower at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, will provide a stationary platform for testers to evaluate the performance of weapons seekers against real targets in an open-air environment. The tower will be operational in April.
The tower will provide a stationary platform for testers to evaluate the performance of weapons seekers against real targets in an open-air environment.
Weapons seekers provide launch aircraft crewmembers with visual images of the target and surroundings, as seen from the weapon.
"The tower is the first of its kind in the Department of Defense," said Bob Arnold, 46th Test Wing technical adviser. "This new tower will greatly enhance our ability to test 21st century weapon systems, thereby helping Eglin to sustain its primary mission of helping the nation’s warfighters to put the right weapon on the right target at the right time."
During testing, a mobile flight motion simulator sits atop the tower and tests the seekers against a variety of land and aerial targets.
"This tower lets our engineers check the seeker’s ability to see and track its target without actually flying the weapon," Arnold explained. "It gives us the capability to evaluate the seeker’s performance against threats it might see in a combat environment."
Before this new capability, engineers here would evaluate the performance of seekers against synthetic targets recreated in a laboratory setting, and then move on to open air captive-carry or free-flight tests. Now, instead of artificially simulating targets, real aircraft can be flown against the seeker to evaluate its performance.
"This gives us real targets instead of computer-generated ones," Arnold said. "It adds one more step in realism so that when the seeker goes into production, it will work the way it is intended."
Construction of the $13 million project began in October 2000 as part of an initiative to reconstitute and enhance test facilities here following Hurricane Opal in 1995, which damaged many of the existing test facilities.
The tower’s structure is based on similar designs used in communication towers but has been strengthened to provide a stable test platform, and to withstand coastal hurricanes. Cement pylons under the three tower legs are buried 65 feet into the ground, giving it the capability to withstand hurricane force winds in excess of 130 mph.
"The key was to make this an extremely rigid structure," said Jerry Griffith, tower project manager, "not only to be able to resist hurricanes, but also because of the sensitivity of the sensor systems that the tower will test."
The tower will go through several months of preliminary testing before becoming fully operational in January.