By Jacqueline BoucherDecember 2, 2008
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Warfighters stake their lives on the accuracy of Tobyhanna's groundbreaking technology every time they set up Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar systems in the field.
Personnel here test new and repaired LCMR AN/TPQ-48 systems using a first-of-its-kind mechanical live-fire test simulator that replicates war zone scenarios. LCMR systems are used to sense enemy fire and warn the force so they can respond to, suppress or destroy incoming mortars.
The M-LFTS facility is the only enclosed indoor simulator for counter fire radar and LCMR in the world, according to Scott Allen, one of the systems engineers, who worked on the project alongside employees from the depot, Fort Monmouth, N.J.; SRCTec and Technology Services Corp.
The $6 million radar test facility opened for business in October.
"We're all very proud of this system," said Allen, who works for Product Manager radars office at Fort Monmouth. He also mentioned that this move puts Tobyhanna one step closer to becoming the LCMR Organic Sustainment Facility sometime next year. Once designated, Tobyhanna will become a one-stop shop for LCMR repair and testing, he added.
"Tobyhanna was the first and only choice for housing the M-LFTS due to its reputation of excellence as well as its close proximity to both SRC [LCMR prime contractor] located in Syracuse, N.Y., and the PM Radars office," Allen said, adding that the contractor is using this system as a development tool for future LCMR versions.
There are three versions of the radar in use or in development today-V1, V2 and V3. There are hundreds of radars in various stages of upgrade or manufacture. Since 2001, when the radar was initially developed, changes in mission requirements and technology have dictated the development of new versions or upgrades to existing systems. Underway now is an extensive V2 version upgrade featuring hardware changes that will improve consistency of accuracy, consistency of accuracy over frequency, radar stability and provide more memory and computing power.
"The Army is fully aware of the M-LFTS's current and future potential to test, verify, calibrate and deliver quality radars to the Soldier whether new or after repairs," Allen said.
The new radar test capability will improve readiness and save the Army material and money.
According to James Pochas, Tobyhanna's LCMR project lead, the Army wanted to eliminate the need to ship radars to the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona for acceptance testing. There is an estimated cost savings per radar of up to $25,000 when they are shipped here instead of Yuma, he added Pochas is a logistics management specialist in the Production Engineering Directorate.
Allen also mentioned huge savings on ammunition, the environment and Yuma Proving Ground test resources. These additional savings could add up to $30,000 per day. "Using the M-LFTS will also free Yuma Test Teams to focus on the development testing of future weapon-locating radars and engineering related live-fire testing," he said.
The simulator is housed in an anechoic chamber and has the capability to electronically generate weapon simulations now being performed by actual mortar fire on the outdoor range at Yuma. Technicians here test the radar by placing it on an azimuth positioner in the center of the chamber and use a complex system of electronics to simulate scenarios available on an outdoor range. In Yuma, the radar is tested by 11 problems of varying distances, shot directions and mortar sizes.
"The simulator will provide an alternative location to test systems," said Scott Larson, lead engineer on the project. "And, as a sustainment facility we'll be able to repair and return radars here rather than Arizona." Larson is assigned to the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Engineering Branch, Production Engineering Directorate.
To create a realistic environment during testing, Larson explained that the radars are set up using the same cables and power supply found in the field. Furthermore, simulation is connected to the radar through the ruggedized computers Soldiers use in the field to operate the system.
Dave Stutzman and Mark Dolph know from first-hand experience how valuable the LCMR is to the Soldier in the field. They deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, last year to support Tobyhanna forward repair activities. Both men are electronics mechanics in the Firefinder Division, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate.
"The Soldiers seemed to like the radar," Dolph said. "They're portable, easy to move around and they save lives."
The entire system is capable of being disassembled into man-portable cases which will fit into a single up-armored vehicle or equivalent Humvee. The system can be assembled and placed in 20 minutes or less by a two-person team, mounted on or off the vehicle.
"Everything is working well so far," said Stutzman. "It's exciting to see the advancement in technology at work at Tobyhanna."
Pochas agrees. "Being on the front end of a new complex weapons system is exciting and challenging." He explained that testing is nearly complete, adding that "this simulator will meet or exceed standards set at Yuma."
The M-LFTS system was accepted by the government in June. Since acceptance, this system has undergone three months of characterization testing. About 100 radars were used to validate the system by collecting data at Yuma and Tobyhanna for comparison.
"It's been a pleasure to work with Team Tobyhanna during the entire development and test process of the M-LFTS," Allen said. "Every individual at the depot has always conducted themselves with great professionalism."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.
Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.
About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.