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Design your own testing range

May. 30, 2013 - 03:55PM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
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The U.S. military, which owns numerous sites where troops can train in urban combat, has far fewer citylike places to develop new weapons. That is why the Army, on behalf of its sister services, is developing a reconfigurable weapons test range that can be built in any urban configuration, from densely packed downtowns to suburban sprawl.

The Joint Urban Test Capability (JUTC, pronounced jut-see) will be a suite of test capabilities embedded in a set of modular construction materials. The exact design has not been finalized; the Army has put out a solicitation to see what capabilities private industry can offer.

“We have a multitude of fixed sites that provide a great urban training capability, but a limited test capability. What this does is give us a flexible and reconfigurable environment that the others don’t,” said Col. Sharlene Donovan, project manager for instrumentation, targets and threat simulators at the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation.

JUTC will replicate several urban environments, including industrial areas, commercial zones, apartments and residential homes. For example, a town might have a dense urban downtown and a sparser adjacent urban area, said JUTC project director Michael Landers.

“The idea is that urban can vary. If you have a system under test that wants to portray a certain set of environmental conditions, whether it is representation of buildings, population effects, infrared effects, or electromagnetic effects, JUTC will provide a suite of capabilities so that you can adapt to the needs of the system under test,” Landers said.

A key part of JUTC will be the capability to build an “urban canyon,” which is a building-to-height ratio of 1:3, according to Landers. “Think of a three-story building. There is also a one-story opening that is the street, alleyway, some kind of common space. That 1:3 ratio is a constraint that is important for systems under test,” he said.

JUTC will be able to erect buildings as high as five stories. “The first increment will procure the equivalent of 19 buildings of varying heights,” Landers said. “The flexibility in anticipated design will permit adjusting the 19 building representations to fewer but larger footprint representations, or more building representations of lesser height.”

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The key is reconfigurability. “So if you wanted nice straight streets for one test and then wanted a lot of narrow or curved streets for the next, you can do that,” Landers said.

The solicitation lists a requirement for multiple test capabilities that can accommodate multiple types of systems, from electronic warfare and communications equipment to kinetic weapons. Donovan said JUTC will also be able to test ground vehicles and UAVs.

JUTC will include augmented, virtual and constructive urban effects; data collection; test planning and control; urban test capability for weapons, architecture and net-centric interoperability; communications jamming testing; and infrared countermeasures testing.

JUTC is in the market research phase, with a request for proposals anticipated in late 2013 and initial operational capability in 2017. Increment I will be fielded at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., because of the existing test facilities there. The price tag for JUTC is $34 million for the buildings and augmented urban environmental effects. JUTC is a Common Test and Evaluation Investment Program funded by the Defense Department’s Test Resource Management Center. It is being developed as a test capability, but Donovan sees potential for it as a training system.

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