By Al Vogel, Dugway Proving Ground Public AffairsJune 29, 2016
DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- The word's out globally: to learn how effective a chemical or biological threat defense technology is, bring it to Dugway this August for S/K Challenge III.
For the third year, Aug. 15-26, S/K Challenge offers an opportunity for foreign, U.S. government, military and private industry to challenge their defense technologies with simulated threats for two weeks, at a fraction of a full test. To date, 28 different U.S. agencies and eight foreign countries have registered for the event, a significant increase over the past two S/K Challenges.
Essentially, Dugway disseminates chemical or biological simulants to replicate an attack or incident, while participants operate their defense technologies to track and identify the simulated threat. Unlike testing, Dugway does not collect data from the participant's technology -- only participants see their data.
During each release, Dugway collects data such as simulant type, amount released, wind speed, temperature, concentration of the simulant at various distances, etc. The data goes through a validation process called "refereeing."
S/K Challenge costs participants significantly less than testing because costs are shared with other participants: one simulant release serves many. Since Dugway never possesses participants' data it avoids data validation and doesn't write a test report.
"Cost sharing allows for significant savings," said John Gomes, test officer for West Desert Test Center's Special Programs Division. "We also provide all participants a complete data package, including all the data from the Dugway referee systems. The participants can use the Dugway data package for comparison to the data their technologies collected."
Two different types of detectors are tested during S/K Challenge. Point detectors warn when they directly encounter agent. Standoff detectors use laser technology to detect from afar, without being exposed to the threat they detect.
The week of Aug. 15-20, releases are at two specialized structures: the Active Standoff Chamber and Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel. The 440-foot-long exterior of the Active Standoff Chamber houses a 110-foot-long chamber containing a biological simulant, held in position with air downdrafts. Large doors, opened at both ends of the structure and chamber, allow the distant laser to pass through to detect the simulant. Unlike containment by glass or plastic, air downdrafts don't affect the laser beam.
Nearby, point detectors are placed inside the 550-foot-long Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel. Powerful fans draw outside air into the tunnel, where a simulated threat is released to waft over the point detectors and challenge them.
In the second week, Aug. 22-26, releases are at a fully instrumented, massive test grid. A variety of methods, including explosives, are used to disseminate chemical or biological simulants. The large grid allows the simulant cloud to drift naturally, tracked and analyzed by point and standoff detectors.
S/K is short for the Greek phrase Sophos Kydoimos -- "Wisdom over the din of battle." It's a fitting phrase for chemical and biological detectors, who must wisely identify a specific threat within harmless microbes, chemicals, smoke, dust, scents and other interferents that confuse detectors or produce false alarms.
Participants benefit from Dugway's expertise; the 800,000-acre Army post in northwestern Utah has tested chemical and biological defenses since founded in 1942. Beyond testing their technologies, participants will also meet other chemical and biological defense experts from around the world.
"Participants will have the chance to meet with industry, international and government organizations throughout this event," said Gomes.