The multi-million dollar Test Grid Safari Instrumentation Upgrade has been under development and construction at Dugway since early 2008, funded by the Joint Project Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD). The JPEO-CBD is the Department of Defense's office for research, development, acquisition, fielding and life-cycle support of biological, chemical and nuclear defense equipment and medical countermeasures. Not just the Army, the JPEO-CBD supports all services and Special Operations Command.

The test system upgrade will offer greater versatility, and real-time review of test data generated by detectors and instrumentation challenged by simulated chemical and biological agents outdoors. In the past, testers and customers had to wait for data to be collected and manually converted to a more useable format.

With the upgrade, encrypted data will be sent in real time from the test site to a permanent facility for storage and backup, then forwarded to the test's mobile command post for immediate viewing by Dugway personnel, customers and VIPs. Weather conditions, generator electrical output, tracking of the simulated agent cloud, detector status, data management and instrument status are displayed.

Reviewing data in real-time means that if testers encounter a problem, they can decide whether to continue the test, delay it to fix the problem or end the test entirely. "It saves the Army money, while giving customers data quicker so they can make educated decisions about the detector systems under test," said Nathan Lee, manager for the Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System upgrade.

The system's network of WiFi towers, fiber optics and highly specialized software secure the data through a common computer network interface that integrates detection, collection, archival and real-time display with oversight decision-making, Lee noted.

Another critical attribute of the Test Grid Safari Instrumentation Upgrade is its mobility (hence, Safari). The command post is a moveable office. Flatbed data trailers contain 10-meter towers, folded down to ease instrumentation installation (meteorological, referee chemical or biological detectors for comparison, etc.) then raised for testing. Each data trailer also contains an electrical generator, data storage and communications. Light trucks tow each trailer to its designated site. Simulant disseminators are mounted in the beds of light trucks for some trials.

The test system upgrade will require fewer people, and is designed for safe setup and retrograde, Lee noted. "We have a core team that's run it for four years under various conditions and scenarios," he said. "Typically, it takes a few days to set it up, wring it out and make it ready for testing. Naturally, there are delayed times as in other test processes, but this is a definite improvement over legacy test capabilities."

Mobility promotes testing in authentic, challenging areas like narrow canyons, salt flats or mountain slopes within Dugway's 800,000 acres of varying topography that resembles Afghanistan, with broad valleys separated by jutting mountain ranges. The average altitude is nearly 5,000 feet, while temperatures can range from subzero to 110 Fahrenheit.

While 10 years and millions of dollars may seem a considerable investment, it dwindles when compared to the cost of not having tested, trusted chemical or biological detectors standing guard for Warfighters, citizens and allies.