Air Force

February 8, 2013

Network of ranges instrumental to flight test

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Laura Mowry
Staff Writer

The F-35 Lightning II is one of many airframes that conducts testing off the coast of southern California, as well as at Edwards and other ranges located in the southwest United States.

Each and every day, the Edwards community works to develop and test the war-winning capabilities of the future. It’s an important role that requires a great deal of support from the 412th Range Squadron, as well as additional backing from a group of ranges located throughout the southwestern United States.

In addition to supporting the 412th Test Wing’s mission; the Southwest United States Range Alliance brings together experts from Edwards; Naval Air War Station China Lake, Calif.; Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.; Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to ensure that ranges are working together and supporting one another to accomplish flight test.

“We all really know each other and work together well. That’s important because the better we work together, the more money we save and the more efficient testing becomes. We are all interested in preserving this network of ranges and maintaining our compatibility; because if we don’t – we can’t get the mission done. We have to be seamless,” said Doyle Janzen, 412th Range Squadron director.

The collaborative efforts from range personnel extend beyond R-2508 Complex, which includes more than 20,000 square miles of restricted airspace used by Edwards, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and NAS China Lake in the Upper Mojave Desert region.

Personnel work together supporting the network all the way from the White Sands Missile Range, located in New Mexico to the sea test range off the coast of California.

“Less than half of the testing occurs in the R-2508 Airspace. The other half goes to the other ranges, which includes the sea test range that Point Mugu and Vandenberg manage. Although the R-2508 is a tremendous asset, there are times when the testing requires support from ranges outside the airspace,” said Janzen.

“For example, many data points require supersonic flight. The High Altitude Supersonic Corridor in the R-2508 Airspace is only 240 miles long. At 1.7 Mach, that’s still pretty cramped; so we use the sea test range instead. Right now, there is a lot of this testing going on with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” he added.

Making it possible for Edwards to test at various ranges, is the impressive infrastructure of strategically placed microwave receivers and transmitters, as well as a vast network of fiber optic cables that relay data to a control room, where on average, anywhere from 20 to 30 flight test professionals are supporting and monitoring the mission with only a fraction of a second delay.

“It really is an impressive network. While there are only two or three hops from the ocean to Edwards, there are 29 towers between here and New Mexico.
And even with the old microwave technology, it only takes 10 milliseconds to see the data. We are currently in the process of phasing out the old technology and changing over to fiber optics because it is better and cheaper. Additionally, there is less maintenance because we don’t have to dedicate money and time to tower maintenance throughout the year,” said Janzen.

While the technology has been used since World War II, it is capable of capturing and relaying data with 250,000 parameters at a rate of 1 million samples per second.

The ongoing collaboration between ranges in the southwest United States continues to benefit the flight test communities for the Air Force, sister services and allies. Whether its over-water testing, electronic warfare, bombing or strafing; the 412th Range Squadron is committed to providing top-notch support.

“I’m extremely proud of the men and women of the 412th Range Squadron. They do incredible work and I think the range is the heartbeat of Edwards. We are absolutely committed to providing top-notch, seamless support, as well as building and maintaining successful partnerships with all those we work with,” said Janzen.




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