Icing during cold-weather operations can be detrimental to a mission, so, recently the U.S. Air Force, Northrop Grumman and Mandall BarrierWorks requested a test, known as the "Ice Test," at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., to help combat icing issues they will most likely face when their equipment is fielded in some of the coldest areas in the U.S. In order to conduct the test, one-inch thick ice must be formed for the de-icing procedure to be tested. Results were satisfactory in this recent test.

"The primary function is to simulate cold weather climates where ice accretion is possible, in order to prove a de-icing procedure and operational readiness of the test item, should ice build-up occur," said Matt Volkmer WSMR test engineer. "All in all, the test was a great success."

The test was conducted over every outer surface of a large tractor vehicle and trailer system. It took approximately 10 days from the initiation of cold temperature conditioning to reach the desired ice thickness. After the ice thickness was achieved, a de-icing procedure provided by the customer, was performed and proved to be satisfactory. The WSMR Applied Environments Group was able to achieve the desired ice thickness for the customers, while the customers were able to determine the suitability of their de-icing procedure.

The WSMR AEG has conducted the "Ice Test" numerous times on a variety of systems. Anything from large vehicles, to medium-sized conditioning systems, to small electronic devices have been tested. WSMR has test facilities that allow for this kind of test and is one of the few places that can conduct them on extremely large systems. The results of tests like these help verify that the item being tested could withstand the effects of a cold climate, where ice can potentially accrue over time. It also verifies the procedures necessary to access the needed parts of the system and that it will successfully operate in such conditions.

"WSMR is one of the few places in the country and world, where conducting a test like this is possible," Volkmer said. "For extremely large systems such as this one, our customers know WSMR is one of the only places they can test their products. We operate large chambers and conditioning systems that allow testing like this to be possible."

Volkmer said tests like these is a combined, team effort through AEG and its contractors. Mark A. Horst, chief of the Test Services branch in the AEG division said this type of test is vital in ensuring the equipment being tested can withstand hazardous weather conditions common to cold-weather climates.

"Ice testing is a normal, run of the mill test, and nearly all systems go through it," Horst said.

"It's an environment that any system would have to endure in northern latitude and/or high altitude operations. This is part of a whole series of tests."

He said ice tests are usually performed on an average of two a year at WSMR. The Technical Area Cold Chamber, which was built in the 1950s, was recently resurrected with portable equipment because the Temperature Test Facility chambers were being replaced. The Cold Chamber will continue to remain open as a backup facility. Horst said WSMR is also able to test equipment in several different types of weather conditions like extreme heat, salt fog and humidity. He said most of the systems are tested in every condition before they are fielded.

The Temperature Test Facility large chamber, which is unique to the installation and the world, is 105 feet long, 40 feet wide and 50 feet high. Horst said it is the second largest chamber in the Department of Defense, the first is located in the McKinley Climatic Laboratory in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The WSMR facility can reach a temperature of 65 degrees below zero or up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The facility also has the ability to conduct high-temperature testing with solar radiation loading. The group also has a cold chamber, measuring at 25 feet by 70 feet, which can reach 50 degrees below zero. A hot chamber, also measuring 25 feet by 70 feet, has the ability to create rain, humidity, salt fog, high temperature and solar radiation conditions. These are the three largest chambers WSMR houses, according to Horst.

The chambers help ensure the system specifications are met and any issues with extreme temperatures are dealt with, prior to fielding.