It’s no surprise to test personnel at Edwards that upon entering the Benefield Anechoic Facility, the dark-blue, cone-filled interior is a one-of-a-kind facility to the Air Force with a unique look.
As of Jan. 24, the addition of new red, white and blue radar absorbing material on one section of the BAF is not only giving this facility a new patriotic look but also an increase in its testing capability.
“RAM is usually black and can be colored to customer requirements. The default color is usually some shade of blue, but since colors were available, I asked the vendor, Cuming Microwave Corporation, what it would take to make an American flag. They liked the idea and offered to do it at no extra charge to the government,” said Jeffrey Jessen, 772nd Test Squadron, chief of the Installed Systems Test Flight.
Aside from looking aesthetically pleasing, the new section of RAM was needed to keep up with testing standards of military and civilian aircraft, according to Jessen.
“The new RAM is rated at a higher power handling. This is important when testing newer systems like the F-22 that have very high power radars,” Jessen said. “Radio Frequency (RF) energy heats the RAM, similar to microwaving popcorn. If we overheat it, it burns, so the new RAM was designed to withstand a higher RF intensity and increases our test capabilities.”
“The BAF allow us to test electronic warfare and radar systems in a controlled environment. Because of its size, we can do many measurements that can’t be done anywhere else,” added Jessen. “We have threat simulators that can recreate radar signals from anywhere in the world to provide a realistic RF environment. We can also do aircraft antenna patterns, Electro Magnetic Interference and Electro Magnetic Capability testing, and other types of testing.”
In total, the new installation took more than one week due to the intricacy of the RAM layout and the handling of the material.
“After some initial delays shipping the glue, the actual installation went very quickly and only took about eight working days,” said Jessen.
The anechoic chamber is filled with polyurethane and polyethylene pyramids designed to stop reflections of electromagnetic waves. The size of the pyramids, which mostly are painted dark blue or black, varies; depending on the particular frequency and test procedure being conducted. The cones, which range from 18 inches high to 6 feet tall, stop reflection from corrupting the measurements taken in the chamber. The chamber itself is welded steel to isolate the chamber from exterior sources of Radio Frequency noise and blocks electromagnetic waves up to 18.0 gigahertz with 100 decibels of isolation. The combination of both features enables the chamber to simulate the quiet open space that aircraft fly their missions in.