An AC-130J Ghostrider assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing from Hurlburt Field, Fla., recently underwent electronic weapons countermeasures testing at the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The C-130 family of aircraft covers a variety of missions including air mobility and close-air support. Due to its mission set, the C-130 employs a host of countermeasures to ensure mission success and crew survivability.
The AC-130 flies relatively low for the guns to have effects on the ground. When you’re that low, you’re a lot more vulnerable to enemy fire,” said Maj. Phil Woodhull, 772nd Test Squadron Director of Operations. “Radio frequency countermeasures will be able to help the plane survive against enemy fire a lot more and it’ll also help the aircraft to be able to do its mission better to find targets on the ground and communicate with the rest of the force as necessary.”
The BAF presents test engineers a virtual open-air range to test the integration of avionics systems in a secure, controlled, and repeatable electromagnetically controlled free-space environment, using state-of-the-art simulation and stimulation technology that closely duplicates the real combat mission environment.
“The BAF is essentially an installed systems test facility where we can put electronic warfare systems or other radio frequency systems on an aircraft installed and then actually emit out the antennas of the aircraft and then put sources back in through the antennas of the aircraft as opposed to other chambers which may do things like direct injection to a wire,” Woodhull said.
The BAF has a highly sophisticated Combat Electromagnetic Environment Simulator (CEESIM). Virtually any RF threat system or friendly RF emitter can be generated for free-space radiation – offering the most cost-effective means of testing and validating effectiveness of sophisticated Electronic Warfare (EW)/Information Operations (I/O) systems (RWR, ESM, ECM, ELINT, SIGINT, Radar and other RF systems) against today’s threats and emerging threats not yet available at open-air ranges.
“This whole chamber basically emulates free space open air. And you can do things in the chamber that you can’t do in an open air range: for security purposes, for flexibility purposes,” Woodhull said. “We can get a lot of test points done in a very short amount of time here.”
“This test here is for the C-130 radio frequency countermeasures program, which will be installed on a lot of AFSOC aircraft,” said Woodhull. “We’re going to be testing a lot of the electromagnetic interference and checking a lot of antenna patterns.”
Woodhull explained that his team will be conducting “source victim testing” to make sure that the host aircraft is not interfering with itself when electronic warfare countermeasures are activated.
“We’re going to turn on one system on the aircraft and other system could be listening – we don’t want those conflicting with each other,” he added. “We’re just going to make sure that everything works together as it’s supposed to.”
With the C-130’s mission set within the 1st SOW, increasing the aircraft’s survivability and lethality is a vital task and the BAF at Edwards AFB is a one-of-a-kind facility for a one-of-a-kind aircraft.