White Sands tests tank for US ally
February 22, 2012
White Sands Missile Range test officers subjected an armored vehicle to simulated unconventional weapon effects Jan. 24 to make sure the vehicle was able to meet required standards before adoption by the allied nation.
The vehicle, a version of the M1A2 Abrams Tank, has certain requirements for its survivability on the modern battlefield. To ensure it meets these requirements, members of Army Test and Evaluation Command's Survivability Vulnerability Assessment Directorate located at WSMR tested the vehicles ability to withstand a hit from an electromagnetic pulse.
EMPs are bursts of energy that are typically generated by a nuclear explosion. This sudden burst of energy can disable unprotected electronics of all kinds, disabling everything from power stations, to vehicles and computers.
To keep Soldiers fighting, some military systems, like the Abrams, have to be able to survive a hit from an EMP and remain in fighting condition. "It's got a criteria that the army has put on it and we have to make sure that it meets that criteria," said John Anderson, a test officer with SVAD
In the case of this tank, the test isn't being conducted for US soldiers, but instead for a foreign US ally. Just like US Soldiers, foreign allied troops need to be confidant that their weapons will work in the heat of battle, and that means conducting a test to ensure the tank works as advertised. "After each shot we'll go out and evaluate the tank and run all of its functions, and make sure all of its mission critical functions are still operational," Anderson said.
To test the vehicle WSMR test officers placed the tank underneath a large EMP generator at the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects test facility. "We use what's called a Marx generator, it's essentially a lot of capacitors that you store the energy in and you can discharge them all at one time, " said Steven Folkers, a test technician with Syndetics Inc. the company contracted to support the test. The generator simulates the EMP generated by a nuclear explosion by creating a similar pulse, but in a more controlled and measurable fashion. "It is a real pulse... but we're just creating it in a small area under this working volume here," Folkers said.
Since the pulse will short out any unprotected electrical system in range, test instrumentation must also be protected from the pulse. To achieve this, test instrumentation is connected to test systems by fiber optic cable. Since fiber optics use light instead of electricity to transmit information, the pulse won't travel along the cabling. This allows test data to be transmitted safely back into a specially shielded room where it can be collected and processed.
Tests like this are regularly conducted at WSMR, which has facilities capable of conducting test involving EMP, high energy lasers, directed energy and microwave systems and even simulated near lightening strikes. WSMR's EMP facility is capable of testing any number of systems the much to need to be tested or evaluated. "Everything from rifle scopes that have laser range finders to the biggest tanks we have. In the past we've even done aircraft," said Folkers said.