The 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., recently reached a historic testing milestone this summer. The 2,000th sled test mission was conducted at the 96th TW’s Kinetic Energy Munitions Test Facility at the Eglin Test and Training Complex Test Area C-74.
The 2,000th test was conducted in support of fuze development for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Hard Target Void Sensing Fuze program. The purpose of this series of sled tests was to demonstrate performance and shock survivability of the fuze during simulated target environments at both ambient and cold temperatures when installed in two different warheads.
“This 2,000th sled test event is a significant historical event for the wing and the 96th Range Group. Our team takes great pride in knowing their scientific and engineering contributions have a key role in continuing many years of consistent, successful test support,” said Jeri Ghosh, the 96th Range Group technical director.
The team consists of the 96th Range Support Squadron and the Eglin Test and Training Complex Operations and Maintenance Contractor, InDyne. The 96RANSS provides the technical, scientific and engineering support to create and accomplish a sled test event and the KEMTF is operated and maintained by InDyne.
The variety of testing that can be conducted at the KEMTF includes penetration tests, warhead survivability, fuze function, aeroballistics, simulated loft dispersion, transportation container evaluation, and simulated captive flight test of systems.
“KEMTF sled testing plays a critical role in the Air Force test process and directly supports the Armament Directorate’s charter to equip our warfighters with effective strike weapons,” said Robbie Thomas, the sled track instrumentation systems engineer. “It is a cost effective ground test capability proven to be a valuable asset to the Air Force and the weapons test process.”
The KEMTF mission is to offer test customers the ability to test inert and live, fuzed munitions against a variety of targets at operational velocities (up to 3,000 feet per second).
“Testing conducted at the KEMTF produces incredibly high quality video and more importantly it produces decision quality engineering data for weapons developers,” said Thomas. The Range Systems Flight provides range instrumentation and data acquisition systems design to capture test data.
The frequency of sled tests is driven directly by a weapon’s development schedule and test requirements. Many tests have complex target setups and often the test item requires environmental conditioning.
“On average we shoot one to two shots per month,” said Thomas.
Since 2010, more than 40 test shots were conducted with two more scheduled in 2013.
The targets those test shots are aimed at can be as large as 22 feet high by 22 feet wide, four feet thick and weigh as much as 160 tons. The Targets Flight provides the professional engineering design and fabrication of the target structures.
“We take great care during the design and build up of the targets, all in accordance with our customers’ requirements,” said Robin Peacock, P.E., the Targets Flight chief.
Once the design is complete, the monstrous targets are constructed at KEMTF’s on-site concrete casting yard. Building a large scale target can take up to a week to cast, and about 28 days to cure based on the specific design criteria and materials.
To move the target into place, a 230-ton crane and hauler transport and place the targets at precise locations at the end of the track to achieve accurate angle-of-attack impacts required for warhead testing. It can take up to 10 days to place the target depending on the complexity of the target design and layout.
The Targets Flight not only creates and places the target, it also provides engineering design for the buildup of the pusher and carrier sleds. It is also involved in the technical design of the combination of rocket motors to propel warheads down sled track at a terminal velocity of up to 3,000 feet per second.
“By design, we are able to engineer and produce accurate delivery of a warhead on target within five degrees angle of attack, which offers an unprecedented high degree of repeatability and reliability,” said Michael Nagel, the sled test design engineer.
The KEMTF at ETTC has been in operation since 1956 and reached 1,000 sled test missions in September 1978.
“The KEMTF’s success is due to the wealth of knowledge, expertise and many years of test experience within the 96th TW,” said Thomas.