DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Dugway Proving Ground will be bustling in 2017, according to Ryan Harris, director of Dugway's West Desert Test Center.
"It's shaping up to be a pretty busy year. We had some testing last year that got delayed until 2017," Harris said.
Dugway's mission is to test defenses against chemical, biological, radiological and explosives hazards (detectors, decontaminators, protective clothing). Dugway tests only defenses against chemical or biological agents or toxic industrial chemicals -- not weapons. Much of the testing is done in chambers with multiple layers of containment and filtration. Only benign, simulated agent is used outdoors.
Emerging threats from around the world including the recent use of chemical weapons in the Middle East has raised concern, and prompted some agencies to seek Dugway's expertise.
"There has been some preparation and questions asked of some our subject matter experts about how to deal with some of those threats," Harris said. "We support the U.S. intelligence community, so they contact our expertise when they try to tackle their problems."
Other nations also rely on Dugway's skilled scientists and engineers to support their testing and evaluation requirements.
"We are seeing, in general, more requests from international partners for support," Harris said.
Upcoming significant testing of systems in 2017 include:
Procedures for chemical analyzers such as the Common Analytical Laboratory System (CALS) will be validated to enable military operators of portable labs and hand-carried analyzers to identify chemical and biological threats with greater accuracy.
Verification and validation of the Safari Instrumentation Grid, a mobile system that streamlines the current method of testing biological and chemical detectors outdoors, is expected to be completed by the fall. "Safari" means mobility to provide outdoor testing anywhere on Dugway, without dependency on grids.
Testing the Contamination Indicator Decontamination Assurance System will continue. CIDAS uses a spray solution that changes color to indicate chemical agents on surfaces. Testing with actual chemical agents will be in sealed chambers, to determine effectiveness under varying conditions.
Approximately 30 Army, Navy, and National Guard warfighters will test the Joint Sensitive Equipment Wipe, a specialized disposable wipe to decontaminate equipment. Realistic use of the wipe on simulated contamination will determine its effectiveness and usability.
Mobile testing of three variants of the Stryker Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle will determine how well each vehicle performs with its integrated Joint Chemical Agent Detector system on board. Outdoor testing will include simulated clouds of agent.
S/K Challenge IV will challenge chemical and biological detectors from around the world and the U.S. with simulated agents at a cost much lower than full testing. Point detectors (warning after exposure) or standoff detectors (warning from afar) and their subsystems are challenged.
Upcoming significant chemical and biological hazards training events in 2017 include:
Numerous National Guard Civil Support Teams train at Dugway each year and have done so since CST were created in 2006. Each of America's 58 CST units is trained to support civil authorities during a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident. Other military and civilian emergency responders are trained to recognize a chemical or biological threat, collect samples and secure the scene.
National Guard units throughout the country hone chemical and biological defense skills at Dugway. The post's vastness (nearly 800,000 acres) and resemblance to Afghanistan attract conventional units for artillery, scouting, convoying, patrol, medical evacuation, mountaineering and desert acclimation.
A team of Dugway specialists will travel to Germany to support that country's chemical and biological defense training while German Bundeswehr Soldiers and cadre will attend a course at Dugway focusing on large scale chemical signatures, detection and sampling.
United Kingdom Royal Air Force Gunners will conduct another iteration of the Desert Vapor exercise with training focused on chemical and biological signatures, detection, sampling and decontamination. The UK unit has trained at Dugway since 2003.
The Rapid Integration Acceptance Center, a tenant unit at Dugway whose headquarters is at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, will use the massive airspace over and around Dugway for testing Gray Eagle, Shadow and Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial systems and upgrades to sensors, radio, fuel system, weatherization and tracking. Other testing will include the airworthiness and safety of a communications system between the AH-64 Apache helicopter and the Shadow and Gray Eagle unmanned aerial systems.
Another tenant unit, the Air Force's Detachment 1, with headquarters at Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, will conduct testing and training of aircraft systems within the Air force's Utah Test & Training Range, adjoining Dugway. Dugway will support two phases of the USAF Weapon System Evaluation Program air-to-ground exercise. The first phase, conducted in May and called "Combat Archer," may include up to 13 each of F22 and F16 aircraft, along with chase aircraft. Live missiles will be fired on the UTTR against subscale, remotely controlled drones. The second phase, conducted in August and called "Combat Hammer," will evaluate precision guided munitions and weapon system combinations, used on fighters and bombers.